Alice Through The Looking Glass Review

The Plot

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp).

The Good

It’s been 6 long years since Tim Burton first gave us his re imagined version of Alice In Wonderland and while he doesn’t return to the directors seat for this belated sequel, the look he set out still shines through. Set after the dark and dismal reign of Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen, Iracebeth, the world of Underland shines a bit brighter this time under new director James Bobin.

Actually, to say that Through The Looking Glass is set entirely after the events of its predecessor isn’t strictly true. After rediscovering the world of Underland on the other side of a mirror, Alice soon goes on a journey through time as she tries to find the Mad Hatter’s parents in order to save his life. To do this, Alice must meet Time himself, here portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen in a fantastically pantomime-esque villainous role.

This time travelling element is the main part of what makes Through The Looking Glass a success. While Burton managed to set the world up in the beautifully dark way only he could do, the only task left for Bobin is to pick up where Burton left off and expand the world out a bit more. With the time travel element, the back stories of the Red and White Queens (Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway respectively) and the Mad Hatter are fleshed out. Exploring their origins in a way which ties in nicely with the story it tells.

Pulling off time travel is always a difficult thing to do but Linda Woolverton’s script respects the laws of the genre. At no point does the idea become too big for its boots or trail off in any way. As Time himself says, you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it…

The Bad

There really isn’t too much to be disappointed with in this sequel which is refreshing. However it has to be said that 6 years is too long a wait between Alice movies for any real care for the characters to stick around. Especially after the first film in the unlikely franchise was more entertaining for it’s special effects than for it’s characters or story. While Through The Looking Glass is much more interesting, it is somewhat of a struggle to gain interest for characters who had already failed to gain our interest 6 years earlier.

The Ugly Truth

James Bobin brings a colourful and interesting story to the screen with the return of the first installment’s cast as well as the introduction of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Time. Ironically, time is the main issue and perhaps had this been released sooner after Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation the interest in the characters could have gained a bit more momentum. In a way, the six year gap diminishes what is otherwise an entertaining and ultimately better sequel.

Review by Johnny Ellis

Preacher Episode One Review

The Plot

As an invisible force works its way through religious leaders, preacher Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) contemplates leaving his church.

The Good

Opening with some grainy footage of an object moving through Outer Space before swiftly moving down to a bloody scene in an African church, Preacher quickly establishes it’s tone with dark humour and over the top gratuitous violence. In this opening episode, creators Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin (The former two who also co-direct this episode) manage to set up the world of this comic book adaptation spectacularly. Managing to roam easily from Russia to Africa and back to the main setting of Texas  and managing to kill off Tom Cruise along the way while also introducing a host of fantastically cast characters ranging from Dominic Cooper’s down on his luck preacher, to Joseph Gilgun’s fantastically funny Cassidy and Ruth Negga’s intriguing and dynamic Tulip.

As these three lead characters are slowly brought together in readiness for the 10 episode season, information is thread throughout, enough to give us a taste of whats to come but not too much to give us everything in one fell sweep. A flashback of Jesse’s father is peppered through the hour in one small but curious scene that promises a rich back story to the character which readers of the comic book are no doubt familiar with but newcomers to the story will no doubt be interested in.

As well as a strong trio of lead roles, and some great supporting roles, the choice of music in this opening episode alone promises that by the end of the season we’ll no doubt have a wonderful playlist built up by the season’s end. Kicking things off with Willie Nelson’s ‘Time of The Preacher’, and adding in Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘The Beast In Me’ for good measure.

But we can’t review this outstanding opening episode without talking about the frankly phenomenal fight scenes. Whether it’s a mid air altercation in a plane, an intense and confined struggle through a car which crashes through a corn field or just a typical bar room brawl, the fight sequences are an impressive feat which manage to present each character as strong as the other. Time will tell if we get to see them join together but if these three scenes are anything to go by, the team up would be mind-blowing!

The Bad

At this point it feels almost impossibly to truly criticise any elements of a show which is clearly setting up a rich and intriguing world. While perhaps the few small moments outside of the three main characters, mainly in Africa, feel like they could have been expanded on a touch more, it seems clear that the majority of the action won’t be taking place there anyway.

The Ugly Truth

As a pilot episode, Preacher manages to set up an interesting world and introduce a host of characters in an impressive way which progresses at just the right pace. Bringing plenty of humour (Joseph Gilgun’s character is surely going to bring a fair few highlights) as well as plenty of gore and teasing us with the beginnings of a story which we’ve only just dipped our toes into.

Review By Johnny Ellis

Money Monster Review

The Plot

Financial TV host Lee Gates (George Clooney) and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are put in an extreme situation when an irate investor takes over their show.

The Good

Jodie Foster directs this utterly thrilling drama which pits a desperate everyman against Wall Street with the help of a TV studio held hostage. George Clooney on knowingly obnoxious form, kicks things off superbly as cringeworthy financial guru Lee Gates. His smug TV hysterics are brought to a swift end as Jack O’Connell’s disgruntled investor, Kyle takes over the show at gunpoint. Now with a suicide vest strapped to him and Kyle’s finger on the trigger, its up to Lee to find out exactly what made his latest ‘sure thing’ stock tip plummet, causing Kyle to lose his life savings.  Kyle wants answers and if he doesn’t get the right ones his finger comes off the trigger and Lee goes everywhere…

O’Connell brings a thunderous role to life as a dangerous New Yorker with nothing left to lose, keeping the tension high and genuinely shocking the audience at times. Meanwhile Julia Roberts grounds the story as long-time producer Patty tries to keep things calm from the edit room, talking to Lee and trying to delay Kyle from taking his finger off the trigger, while trying to track down IBIS CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) to get some answers.

While it all sounds tense and very edge of the seat stuff, writers Jamie Linden, Alan DiFore and Jim Kouf manage to inject some wonderful moments of humour throughout the story which director Jodie Foster  handles with ease.

 

The Bad

Also joining the mix, though mostly outside of the confines of the studio is Giancarlo Esposito as the tough no nonsense police captain Powell who spends his time desperately trying to intervene and bring this madness to an end as soon as possible. Unfortunately he feels short changed for the most part. This seems to be a common occurrence with his work in film since his ground-breaking performance in Breaking Bad. As soon as he appears, fans of Gus Fring will no doubt get excited but inevitably feel let down.

While the story promises to dig deep into the subject of corruption in finance, it mostly slips into the generic dramatic thriller element and leaves the meatier subject untouched for the most part. If you’re going in hoping for a smart film in the likes of The Big Short, you’ll ultimately leave wanting more.

The Ugly Truth

Jodie Foster directs a fun and tense thriller with three great leads, and plenty of humour along the way. If you go in expecting that and nothing more you’ll be sure to have an absolute blast!

Review By Johnny Ellis

Love & Friendship Review

The Plot

The unashamedly ruthless and flirtatious Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ quiet country estate. While taking advantage of her dismayed relations, she relentlessly schemes toward finding an advantageous match for herself and her unfortunate daughter Frederica

The Good

Love & Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s unfinished novella Lady Susan. However, those anticipating a sweet natured tale of brooding but kind hearted romance may find themselves surprised but thoroughly amused by this adaptation of one of the iconic period drama author’s lesser known works.

Lady Susan’s joyously selfish and unapologetically mean spirited personality immediately distinguishes the film from all other Austen adaptations, instantly injecting a bitterly funny tone that feels strangely modern.  Kate Beckinsale trades well upon her flawless looks and cut glass vocal charms to deliver a loveably loathsome performance.

There’s an undeniable guilty pleasure for audiences in watching her casually manipulate and abuse the assorted kind souls and blithering idiots she is surrounded by in polite Edwardian society. The combined skill of Austen’ writing, Beckinsale’s performance and Whit Stillman’s careful direction conspire to ensure that Lady Susan remains obnoxious but somehow likeable.

Though Beckinsale’s Lady Susan may shamelessly abuse her meek daughter and the assorted proud or foolish aristocracy around her, she rarely has a truly despicable impact on others. This enables audiences to regard her selfish determination with some form of admiration rather than abhorrence.

Newcomer Tom Bennett steals every moment he’s on screen with a performance that perfectly captures the true joy of blithering idiocy. Listening to his wealthy simpleton Sir James Martin assess the merits of the ‘12 commandments’ or extol the virtue of peas is a relentless delight.

A host of familiar faces including Chloe Sevginy, Stephen Fry and James Fleet also round out a well-chosen supporting cast that helps facilitate the film’s saucy comedic approach to the source material. Armed with a skilful ensemble capable of handling the quick spoken verbal  pacing, director Whit Stillman is able to fully realise the innately energetic charms of Austen’s most sharp tongued wit.

The Bad

Those adamantly opposed to enjoying Austen’s corset clad dramatics may still be put off, even with the additional emphasis on comedy and a captivating anti-heroine. Love and Friendship moves at a leisurely pace and offers a relatively simple plot lacking in any actual elements of danger or drama. Ultimately the playfully mean spirited sense of humour may not quite go far enough for anyone suffering from a serious Austen aversion.

The Ugly Truth

Love and Friendship sparkles with a deliciously sharped tongued wit that adds a new dimension of black comedy to the familiar period drama charms of Jane Austen. Scene stealing turns from Kate Beckinsale and newcomer Tom Bennett are particular highlights along a generally amusing ride.

Review By Russell Nelson

The Nice Guys Review

The Plot

A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

The Good

Writer/director Shane Black returns to the big screen after dipping his toe into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2013’s Iron Man 3 and brings a consistently funny script as only he knows how. Set in Los Angeles in 1977, The Nice Guys brings together Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as Jackson Healy and Holland March, two hapless private investigators who scour the city in search of the truth behind the death and apparent reappearance of porn star, Misty Mountains (Murielle Telio). To find out what happened, they must first find Amelia (Margaret Qualley) to help piece together the puzzle. The only problem is, Amelia doesn’t want to be found.

Crowe and Gosling manage to bring a fantastically charismatic pairing to the screen in performances which basically see them moving from mistake to mistake as the bumbling investigators. Of the two it is undoubtedly Gosling who is most memorable. His drunken performance as March is a joy to watch while Crowe just looks on in disbelief. That’s not to say Crowe doesn’t get some laughs too. His are just more grounded than Gosling’s.

The real treat however, comes from Angourie Rice who tags along this wacky story as Gosling’s on-screen daughter, Holly. While the two leads are crashing through the plot creating comical chaos, Rice brings arguably the more mature performance of the trio as she tries her hand at her father’s profession and manages to do a much better job of it for the most part.

The Bad

As a buddy cop comedy, The Nice Guys is excellent, but as a Shane Black film, it leaves a lot to be desired. The plot tumbles along from set to set, following the unarguably strong chemistry between the two leads, but once Rice comes into the mix she feels like the more interesting character to follow. Crowe and Gosling do a great job together but don’t get enough character development to make us really care about much more than their comedy. And while Rice gets less character development, her performance brings out a much more intriguing character that feels undervalued. This is despite the fact that she is occasionally slumped into the damsel in distress role – though she manages to hold her own even in those scenes.

The story we’re given takes a long time to become truly interesting as the mystery surrounding the question of whether Misty Mountains is still alive ends up being shunned aside in the second act to make way for the boisterous comedy.

The Ugly Truth

Shane Black brings plenty of laughs as is expected, but the plot feels a touch too empty in the end. While there’s no denying that Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling give two great comic performances (Gosling more so), it’s Angourie Rice who leaves a bigger impact when the credits start to roll.

Review By Johnny Ellis