Tuesday, June 28, 2016

[Review] Dheepan

Last year's Palme d'Or winner Dheepan has finally gotten a U.S. release. The film is helmed by Jacques Audiard (director of 2009's excellent prison mob drama A Prophet), and it's a richly detailed portrayal of an immigrant experience that ends with a jarring clash.

When the ashes of the Sri Lankan civil war cool, a haunted soldier named Sivadhasan (Anthonythasan Jesuthasan) plans to leave the refugee camp and relocate to France for a fresh start. In order to do so, he must travel with a fake passport (from a deceased man named Dheepan) and pose with a family, which includes his "wife" Yalini (Kalieaswari) and "daughter" Illayaal (Claudine Vinasithamby)--two other people in search of a better life.

Dheepan is filmed with a stark lens of realism, which contains impressively naturalistic performances. It's an interesting dynamic--a group of people who don't know each other pretending to be a genuine family. But they're in it together, encountering the same struggles and adjustments of entering a foreign country with a different culture. And of course, there's the language barrier. In an amusing exchange about Sivadhasan's co-workers' jokes, he tells Yalini, "I understand the words but they don't sound funny." And Yalini answers, "Maybe you're just not funny." The duration moves at quite a slow pace, but it also exhibits many subtle moments of layered character development.

The third act sees a tonal shift and things really escalate as Sivadhasan goes head to head with the hoodlums occupying the housing project where he, Yalini, and Illayaal reside. The film practically turns into a Tax Driver-esque crime drama where bullets fly and blood is spilled (it's also similar to something that Liam Neeson might be involved in). Experimental electronic artist Nicolas Jaar provides a menacing score that surges when the chaos ensues. It's a divisive transition, but I thought it added a certain momentum and unexpected intensity to it all, as Sivadhasan (or should I say Dheepan) leaves one battle only to unfortunately face another.

( 7.5/10 )

Monday, June 27, 2016

[Review] The Neon Demon

In 2011, the consistently divisive Nicolas Winding Refn struck critical and commercial gold with the thrillingly cool Ryan Gosling vehicle, Drive. He followed that up with the lackluster Only God Forgives (some people still vouched for it, but I found it to be too sloggy for its own good). Now comes The Neon Demon, which falls somewhere in between.

In the LA-set film, wild cats--whether it's a roaming mountain lion or a taxidermied leopard--appear as a peripheral motif. Predators lurk. Everywhere. Jesse (Elle Fanning), a shy and naive 16-year-old posing as 19 has recently moved into town and landed a couple of modeling gigs. As she gets deeper and deeper, things get weirder and weirder, and bloodier and bloodier.

Dark and fascinating, each scene early on plays like a searing exhibition of the cutthroat nature of the supermodel industry, navigating the levels of Hollywood, and "making money off pretty". Characters soullessly deliver provocative dialogue with not-so-subtle subtext about superficial beauty, competition, perfection, aging, and appearance-altering procedures. Now, none of these are new or groundbreaking themes in the cinematic world, especially recently (Maps to the Stars, The Congress, and even Black Swan), but that doesn't make the experience any less potent.

The cast is terrific in this hyper-stylized environment. Elle Fanning glows as the main force. Notable supporters include: Keanu Reeves as a seedy motel manager. Jena Malone as a deceptive makeup artist. Desmond Harrington (Quinn from "Dexter") as an unconventional photographer. Alessandro Nivola as a cold-hearted fashion designer. The visuals are impeccably framed, and coated with bold purples and reds of, yes--neon. Cliff Martinez's throbbing, synth-heavy score really fits the aesthetic (cue the obligatory flashing strobe sequence). It's all quite fever-dreamy, but the narrative itself is surprisingly straightforward. Unfortunately, things unravel a bit toward the back half as the film delves into shock-horror territory. But it does take the phrase "You'll get eaten alive!" seriously.

Near the beginning, there's a striking visual where Jesse gazes out into the cityscape from atop a hill. It appears that the sky and the city have flipped places. One is filled with a concentration of lights and stars, and the other is pitch-black and hollow. It's an encompassing scene for The Neon Demon.

( 7/10 )

Sunday, June 26, 2016

[Review] The Shallows

The Shallows comes with three particular genre S's: Surfing, Shark, and Survival. While the previews made this film look like disposable summer fare, it actually turns out to be a gripping treat.

After some ironic foreshadowing ("This is paradise!"), Nancy (Blake Lively) arrives at a beautiful, secluded beach in Tijuana to catch some waves. The surf is excellent and the scenery is exquisite, but once the sun sets, Mr. Shark attacks. Nancy narrowly escapes with a gnarly gash on her thigh and gets stranded on an isolated rock. When help is nowhere to be found, Nancy must fend for herself.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (best known for Neesian flicks like Non-Stop & Run All Night) takes full advantage of the physical (and painful) setting. Every bump, injury, and sensation is emphasized; from poisonous coral reefs to stinging jellyfish. It's piercing stuff, and some of it might make your own body tense up as you're watching the events unfold. And of course there's some nail-biting sequences of underwater peril, complete with extremely close-calls and shark jump scares. This thing is also greatly paced, and there's a slick use of timing in respect to low and high tide.

Blake Lively does a swell job in carrying the majority of the film by herself. Actually, I shouldn't say she's entirely solo, because there is a broken-winged seagull that hangs out with her on the rock (Nancy names him Steven Seagull), and his performance is pretty dang impressive too. Believe it or not, Nancy's character is even given a bit of meaningful backstory. She's currently a medical student, but after her mother died of cancer, she's become jaded and is considering dropping out. However, both aspects significantly come into play with her struggle for survival.

But yes, The Shallows is mostly surface thrills, but they're good and dangerous, fin-emerging-through-the-water surface thrills.

( 7.5/10 )

Thursday, June 23, 2016

[Review] Central Intelligence

There's no shortage of buddy cop comedies nowadays, but Central Intelligence has enough going for it to be enjoyable. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Kevin Hart are the team in this likable romp. 

The film begins showcasing their high school days: Robbie Weirdicht (Johnson) is a chubster outcast (it takes some seriously impressive CGI to make The Rock look like this) and a victim of mean and embarrassing pranks. Calvin (Hart) is the most popular guy in the school--Voted most likely to succeed. 20 years later, you could say things have changed a bit. Calvin is now a pushover at a low-level office job, and Robbie is now The Rock. I mean--Robbie is an exceptionally handsome man of herculean stature, and a badass CIA Agent. In a ridiculous turn that you just have to go with, Robbie ropes the nil-experienced Calvin into helping him with a dangerous espionage mission.

There's actually a significant way that Central Intelligence differs from recent buddy cop films we've seen. It sounds simple, but--the two leads like each other. Sure, they're mismatched in size and personality, but it isn't the usual head-butting scenario. The Rock and Kevin Hart demonstrate some solid chemistry, and the script packs some decent laughs. It isn't as hysterical and distinguished as The Nice Guys, but it's surely better than Ride Along 2 (which Kevin Hart also plays sidekick in).

One of my favorite lines comes when Calvin is confronted in a bar by a grumpy Tapout-wearing scumbag who utters "Bro" every few words. Calvin claps back by saying "Was that the last 'Bro'? 'Cause if it was then I'll talk." There's also an amusing flashback where Robbie recalls the death of his former partner in the field (a glorified Aaron Paul cameo). Jason Bateman appears as the guy who used to bully Robbie in high school, and whether it's an intentional reference to last year's excellent The Gift or not, it's a great casting choice. Oh yeah, and the running gag of The Rock slyly appearing out of nowhere is pretty funny. The humor hits more often than not, and even when it doesn't fully hit, the material manages to not crash and burn either.

The spy story gets a bit too convoluted and overly twisty for the sake of being twisty (yes, even for a spy story), and the action scenes leave more to be desired. These clunky aspects unfortunately drain some of the interest from the film. But underneath it all, there's a nice anti-bullying message and a push for overcoming obstacles and being yourself. Agreeable, for sure.

( 7/10 )

Monday, June 20, 2016

[Review] Finding Dory

Unless you've been hiding in an eel hole, you're probably aware that Pixar's highly anticipated (and highly advertised) sequel to the beloved Finding Nemo is finally here. So let's dive right into it...

Finding Dory takes place a year after that whole mishap with the little orange clownfish getting lost. We catch up with the still-found Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his dad Marlin (Albert Brooks), and their ever forgetful neighbor Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who interrupts their fish sleep every 3 seconds. Early on, the film reveals multiple flashback scenes that are simultaneously adorable and poignant. The first sees a tiny wide-eyed Dory dealing with her chronic short-term memory loss as her parents do all they can to keep her safe, but eventually she's swept away by the undertow...

In the present, Dory's mind catches sporadic bits of her childhood, and though a lot of it is a blur, she's certain that she misses her mom and dad immensely. So with some company from Marlin and Nemo, she embarks on an ocean-wide search for her parents. But of course, it's no smooth ride. Amidst a giant squid chase, Dory gets tangled in a piece of plastic soda rings (a striking environmental preservation and anti-litter visual), then is scooped up by boaters and transferred to the Marine Life Institute. There, she meets a camouflaged shape-shifting octopus named Hank (Ed O'Neill), and the two of them form a deal to help each other achieve their desires.

So, how does Finding Dory measure up against its predecessor? Well, the journey isn't as fresh and expansive as the original, but it's still a welcome return to this colorful, impressively animated underwater world (Hank's squishy texture and the photorealistic views of the ocean's surface are something to behold). And with the easy-to-root-for Dory at the center this time around, there's still a meaningful story to be told. It's enough to make you well up. (I know it left a lump in my throat.)

While the narrative is anchored with a deep sense of pathos, there's still plenty of frolicsome splashes of humor. Idris Elba and Dominic West (AKA Stringer Bell and Jimmy McNulty of "The Wire") voice a pair of lazy self-centered sea lions that have permanently planted themselves on a sun-soaked rock. Those show-stealing surfer dude sea turtles from Finding Nemo get their cruise on with a victory lap performance. There's a goofy set piece where Hank and Dory end up in a 'Touch Pool' exhibit and attempt to dodge the incoming hands of wildly excited kids at all costs. And Dory speaking "whale" (which is basically howling and elongating words) gets me every time. In fact, pretty much everything Dory does is great, and it definitely helps that Ellen's voice work is so endearing here.

But it truly is the undercurrent of heart-tugging themes that make Finding Dory so remarkable. Dory is a beacon of persistency, aspiration, and believing in yourself and others. The film very much so can be taken as a tale of living with a disability, as well as an exploration of the parental experience in raising a child with special needs. During one of the flashbacks, Dory's mom questions, "Will Dory be able to make it on her own?" The importance of family is driven home, and not only your biological family, but anyone close to you that has made a significant impact on your life. Just like Dory was there for Marlin and Nemo in Finding Nemo, they are there for her in Finding Dory (sniffle).

The big climax falls on the ridiculously farfetched side (yes - even for a movie full of talking sea creatures), and it's propelled by a string of major coincidences and plot conveniences, but as the amazing Dory would say: "The best things happen by chance."

* 8.5/10 *

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

[Review] Warcraft

Director Duncan Jones is responsible for one of the more provocative sci-fi films of the last 10 years, Moon. (Fun fact: He's also David Bowie's son.) He followed that with the time-bending thriller Source Code. Like Gareth Edwards (Godzilla [2014]) and Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World), he's now taken the leap to a lofty franchise. I'll preface this by saying I've never played a minute of Warcraft in my life, but I can tell you what I think of the movie. And it's not good.

In the World of Warcraft, there's been "A war between Orcs and humans for as long as can be remembered." We begin from the perspective of the Orcs, where we meet Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Draka (Anna Galvin) as they're expecting their first child. Apparently the Orc race is dying out, so the clan of tusked warriors band together and warp through a portal to another dimension filled with human soldiers (most notably Travis Fimmel), sorcerers (Ben Foster, Ben Schnetzer), and a king (Dominic Cooper). And you guessed it--war ensues.

Both of the main races (Orcs and humans) are developed in an incredibly flat and detached way (calling it "generic" would actually be too generous), so it's difficult to latch onto anything in this cluster of characters. Yes, even big green hulking ogres should possess distinguished traits and interesting personalities--just look at Shrek! Various forms of magic burst out of nowhere without any explicit indication of what the effect is or how it all operates in this undercooked cinematic universe. I couldn't take Ben Foster's wizard character seriously, as he appears to be a mix between Jesse Pinkman and Ozzy Osbourne... on acid. However, he makes for some unintentional hilarity, especially because Foster seems to have checked out of the role before the movie even began.

I didn't find the film's supposedly groundbreaking CGI to be all that spectacular. The motion capture here seems to function better for facial expressions than it does for body movements. For the most part, this thing can't help but feel like the longest video game cutscene ever. Between the convoluted action sequences, unfocused narrative, and the miserable, emotionless tone--the whole thing is virtually an enormous blob of "Who knows or cares what's even happening right now?"

Warcraft is an aggressively vapid piece of fantasy even compared to some of the recent lower-tier stinkers in the genre. It makes movies like Dracula Untold and Seventh Son not look so bad, and that sadly might be the film's greatest accomplishment.

( 3.5/10 )

Monday, June 13, 2016

[Review] The Conjuring 2

2013's The Conjuring was an effective and well-crafted horror flick, drawing influence from the best of the haunted house and demonic possession genres. This year's The Conjuring 2 doesn't quite match its predecessor's greatness, but skilled director James Wan still makes sure to scare your socks off.

Not taking long at all to ramp up, the story opens amidst the infamous Amityville hauntings, where we see Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) return as dedicated paranormal investigators. It's an intense sequence, so much so that the scenes of ghastly nuns and prophetic visions of death mess up the married couple so bad that they vow to never take on another case. So you know what that means? They take on another case.

Across the pond to London, England (cue The Clash's "London Calling"), we meet Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), a mother of four living in a rundown property in Enfield. One night, the kids break out a Ouija board and unknowingly awaken a malevolent poltergeist spirit. Toys begin acting up on their own, sinister voices growl from the youngest daughter's mouth (that's never a good sign), and a creepy old man lurks in the shadows (also never a good sign). The Warrens eventually show up in an attempt to help, and things get real crazy.

The film proficiently imposes a hair-raising atmosphere with its minimal use of light and its tiptoeing camerawork, which provides some unnerving views around corners and through foreboding hallways. The crashes and bangs are abrupt and amplified--to the point where the rumbling spills over into the movie theater. And there's the rain. It's always raining. James Wan also brings out what I call the 'no mercy' jump scares--the type of jolts that make your feet kick up and cause audible gasps (and possibly a few expletives). Kudos to the cast as well, who are impressively convincing the whole way. Without such solid performances, a film like this would surely suffer.

There's only one major issue that bugged me, and I can't go into too much detail because it's a moment that comes late in the game, but it has to do with a clumsy plot point and some questionable character inconsistencies. Thankfully, this falter doesn't diminish the primary thrills.

The Conjuring 2 is not a film of subtleties, so audiences who prefer the less is more approach in horror might be turned off by the jarring leaps and onslaught of supernatural terrors. It tosses everything but the kitchen sink at you. Seriously, there's furniture flying all over the place! A few different ghouls are stuffed into the story, which leads me to believe that at least one of them might get their own spin-off, like the Annabelle doll did from The Conjuring (my bet is on "The Crooked Man"). But if you're willing to submit to the madness of this midsummer fright fest, you might feel the need to dive into a pool of holy water after you exit the theater.

( 7.5/10 )

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Friday, June 10, 2016

[Review] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was the cinematic equivalent of spoiled cheese--with its awful dialogue, foul attempts at humor, and blurred mess of action sequences. This year's TMNT: Out of the Shadows is a slight improvement, but that isn't really saying much.

Now that the origin story is out of the way, we immediately swoop into Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael's sewer-popping world as they keep the New York City streets safe and do Ninja Turtle stuff. Meanwhile, the villainous Shredder escapes from prison and concocts a plan to unleash the mutants Bebop the Warthog and Rocksteady the Rhino.

As expected, a lot of this is intentionally wacky and over-the-top, but stylistically it plummets into the basic and cringeworthy side of things--the type of stuff that is more likely to make your eyes roll than your sides split. I mean, the film opens with a "Turtle formation? I thought you said SQUIRREL formation!" joke. Will Arnett and Megan Fox return as Vern Fenwick and April O'Neil, respectively, and they're both respectively not good here. Tyler Perry shows up as a mad scientist, and let's just say he isn't the cast's saving grace.

Of course the best players in the story have the least amount of screen time. Dean Winters appears in a small role as a bartender, and I can't help but think there should've been more of him. The slimy Brad Garrett-voiced Krang recalls campy gross-out B-movie monsters in a deliciously amusing way. But the real highlight comes near the beginning during a Knicks vs Clippers game at Madison Square Garden, and DeAndre Jordan makes a slapstick cameo by slipping on a fallen slice of pizza.

The script also addresses the theme of *different* vs *normal*, and the notion of being viewed as a monster by the public. "People fear what they do not understand." But unfortunately, none of it fully pays off as it gets lost in the myriad of Michael Bay-infused action.

Out of the Shadows does have some bright spots, and young kids might get a kick out of it, but overall, there are much more savory options out there, even within the crowded stack of blockbuster franchises.

( 5.5/10 )

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

[Review] Sunset Song

It's significantly less sweet than its title might suggest, but the Terence Davies directed Sunset Song (adapted from a 1932 novel of the same name) is a mostly rewarding experience.

Set in Scotland as the First World War looms in the distance, Sunset Song follows the life of a farm girl named Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn). Aside from enduring the backbreaking manual harvest duties, Chris witnesses several travesties within her immediate family early on. After her mother poisons herself, her brother runs away, and her belt-wielding father dies of a stroke (Yeah, this thing is gloomy), Chris journeys into town and falls in love with a lad named Ewan (Kevin Guthrie). But just when things are brightening up--here comes war.

Despite the melancholy story, this is a beautifully filmed picture. The lush cinematography gazes through the misty haze of the sprawling Scottish hillsides and across the crystal, painterly lakes. The finely detailed interiors are almost just as impressive, with their candle-lit shadows and old-fashioned sepia tint. Between the big and small settings, and the vast stretches of time (the farm equipment evolves as years pass), the film is quietly epic and intimate all at once.

One of the sequences during the narrative's last third feels overwrought, too melodramatic, and unnaturally jarring given the mood the film had established to this point. I won't go into specifics about it, but you'll probably know which part I'm talking about. Still, Sunset Song is a potent tale of a woman's strength, perseverance, and independence amidst such unremitting tragedy.

( 7/10 )

Monday, June 6, 2016

[Review] Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

You might know the sketch comedy rap trio The Lonely Island from seminal viral hits like "I'm on a Boat", "I Just Had Sex", and "YOLO". And they aren't done yet. Instead of fizzling out, crashing and burning, or fading into obscurity, they've now taken their talents to the big screen. The debut movie riffs on those sugary and motivational "popumentaries" in the vein of Katy Perry: Part of Me, One Direction: This Is Us, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and so on--hence the mirthfully titled Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Meet superstar Conner AKA #Conner4Real (played greatly by Andy Samberg), a heavily tattooed white boy rapper with chart-topping hits and sold out stadium concerts. He rolls with a 32-person entourage of various duties (my personal favorite is the guy who sporadically kicks Conner in the nuts in so he "doesn't forget where he came from"). We learn that Conner was once part of a Beastie Boys-esque group called the Style Boyz (which contains the other two Lonely Island members, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone). Turns out, Conner has pulled a Beyonce or Justin Timberlake and risen to renowned fame as a solo act, and is now gearing up to release "the most anticipated album of the decade." But much to Conner's surprise, the album ends up being a commercial and critical flop. So, the rest of Popstar revolves around Conner going drastic lengths to revitalize his career.

In a recent Hot 97 interview, Andy Samberg said that this film should've been called "Rapstar", and he isn't wrong, because there's definitely a mainstream hip-hop lean to it. Guest spots in this film include the legendary Nas, contemporary trendsetter ASAP Rocky, and the sensational DJ Khaled (Another One). During the aforementioned interview, The Lonely Island crew also expressed their eclectic tastes in rap music, ranging from old-school Bay Area wordsmiths like Hieroglyphics to today's divisive genre-benders like Lil Yachty and Young Thug. What I'm saying is: the troupe genuinely knows their stuff, and that definitely comes through in their uproarious music and this hysterically clever flick.

Here, they've penned the screenplay together (with some help from Judd Apatow), which is full of biting references and hilarious punchlines. It's successful because it keeps a close ear to what's hot in current pop culture, and the subjects are spoofed in a playful way without being patronizing. The sense of humor is keen and observational--satirizing celebrity excess, tabloid blunders, paparazzi run-ins, social media antics, Behind The Music drama, and the swift falls from being on top of the world. But don't get it twisted; the film doesn't shy away from being straight up silly either. I mean, this is the same group that put out a song called "Dick in a Box".

Conner is a character that could've been unbearable, but thanks to Andy Samberg's charisma, comic timing, and overall dedication to the role, Conner4Real is a consistently amusing dude who grows on you along the way, despite all his egotistical mishaps. Other comedy staples such as Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader pleasantly round out the cast. I'll refrain from naming any further cameos, but I will say that there's A LOT of them, and they're good ones.

All of the humor in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping won't fly with everyone, but if you're a fan of The Lonely Island's work and are in need of some laughs, this film is far from a flop.

* 8.5/10 *

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

[Review] Love & Friendship

Whit Stillman directs this Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship--a courtship period piece with a gentle snap of humor.

Set in late 1700s England, recently widowed and dubiously manipulative Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) plans a stay at the immaculate Churchill mansion, in search of a husband for herself and one for her shy daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Several other in-laws and suitors (one of which includes the painfully bland Reginald, played by Xavier Samuel) are introduced with on-screen captions in regard to their character "type", which adds a self-conscious element to the romp.

The film gets off to a bit of a slow and underwhelming start, like a middling afternoon stage play. Too mundane at times. Too breezy at others. However, it eventually begins to charm as the script winkishly pokes fun at its subjects and the culture of elaborate wealth and superficial marriage. You can also expect the lavish costume detail and the usual sharp and flourishing dialogue, but it's Kate Beckinsale's finely distinct performance and acidic wit that becomes a real treat every time she enters a scene.

Things also get a humorous boost when the clueless and not-so-proper Sir James Bennett (Tom Bennett) shows up announced, sticking out in the stuffy environment. At dinner he exclaims, "How jolly! Tiny green balls!" (when talking about peas). He later spouts off an amusing monologue about which of the 10 Commandments he'd choose to eliminate first, and then lets loose at a fancy ballroom dance. The guy is a hoot, and I think audiences are thankful that he's here.

Love & Friendship is light and forgettable, but there's still plenty enough to like about it.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

[Review] Alice Through the Looking Glass

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) provided a feast of creative visuals and escapist fantasy, but the rest of it left more to be desired. Let's just say audiences weren't exactly demanding a sequel (as the weak opening box office numbers confirm). James Bobin takes the helm for Alice Through the Looking Glass, and there isn't much enticing magic left here.

One thing the film succeeds at is getting practically the entire original cast on board. Mia Wasikowska reprises her role as Alice. Johnny Depp is back as the Mad Hatter. Anne Hathaway appears as the White Queen. And Helena Bonham Carter returns as the Red Queen.

When we catch up with Alice, we learn that she's now a world-class sailor. After some estate drama back home, that nifty little butterfly (voiced by Alan Rickman, R.I.P.) lures Alice back to what the story calls Underland (Seriously y'all, is it Underland or Wonderland?). Turns out, the Mad Hatter is still mad. But this time he's a dark mad. And he wants to find his family. So Alice is forced to travel back in time in order to save the Mad Hatter's parents before he goes off the deep end.

It's all so humorless--the tone is completely drab and the script fails to charm at all. It's convoluted--the narrative acts as both a sequel and a prequel, hopping through different time frames without latching onto a momentous path. And frankly, it's just kind of boring. It's a journey that doesn't feel like a journey. There's little to care about here, and aside from Alice, all of the characters are stilted. It's hard to even tip a hat to the visuals in this one. Instead of being awe-inspiring and eye-popping, the computer animation is more campy and artificial. With all of the clocks, gears, and gadgets, the world takes on more of a steampunk aesthetic--which would be okay if it weren't like a less exquisite version of Hugo (Speaking of Hugo, Sacha Baron Cohen plays a role here as Time itself).

You can't really call Alice Through the Looking Glass a disappointment, because the hopes weren't very high for this sequel in the first place. Either way, a lot of people are going to want their own time back after sitting through this one.

( 4/10 )