Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Devil's Candy (2015) film review

Year: 2015
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director/Writer: Sean Byrne 
Cast: Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby, Kiara Glasco & Pruitt Taylor Vince

Reviewed by Katrina Stuart as part of the 2016 Sydney Film Festival

When the director gets up before the movie you’re about to see and describes his last film (the gloriously gory The Loved Ones from 2009) as a “great ad for drills”, you know that you’re dealing with someone who can have a bit of fun. The Devil's Candy delivers and then some, thanks to an amazing soundtrack featuring drone metal legends Sunn O))), along with the likes of Slayer, Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age. 

This film is a throwback to a time when horror movies were simpler. There are no zombies, no vampires, no other-worldly monsters. Here we are dealing with that old man: The Devil. The devil who cannot walk this world, but can manipulate humans to carry out his evil machinations in wide and varying ways. A zombie just eats your doesn’t aim for the soul.

The film opens in a Texan (read: creepy) farmhouse. Overweight and dim-witted Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), who has the whole ‘man-child’ thing going for him, hears a hellish, Latin-speaking voice. In order to drown out said voice, he plugs in his amp and blasts out some seriously rocking guitar riffs – because what else would you do in the middle of the night to drown out Satan’s calling? His elderly mother disagrees and oops, she’s a goner.

We are then whisked away and introduced to the Hellman family (yes, Hellman, director Sean Byrne sure knows how to have some fun). Jesse (Ethan Embry) is an artist who happens to love metal, as does his teenage daughter, Zooey (Kiara Glasco). The two share a bond through music that Zooey’s mother, Astrid (Shiri Appleby) doesn’t quite get. But then, who really ‘gets’ metal, unless you’re a metal head yourself? Poor Jesse has to paint butterflies to make ends meet (“So not metal”, as Zooey puts it) and when they stumble upon an old country farmhouse with a perfect studio space at a bargain-basement price they can’t believe their luck. Until the red-and-black dressed realtor explains that pesky ‘death in the house’ matter. As he puts it, ‘we’re talking about a little old lady who tripped down the stairs, and a husband who couldn’t go on without her.’ Ah, so now the Hellmans have a choice, to snap up a bargain, or stay put - but at what cost? And that’s the underlying theme of this film: the devil is indeed, as the saying goes, in the detail.

What follows is nothing surprising or shocking. Of course the Hellmans move into the hell house. Ray shows up on their first evening asking to come back home. Jesse’s butterfly painting becomes increasingly disturbing (apparently the artworks featured in this were in fact painted by a bona-fide Satanist) and then some kid goes missing. However, the power of this film isn’t in its plot – it’s this amazing emotional reaction that you have to the characters. 

And that’s where The Devil’s Candy really wins. All the characters and the even crazy, child-murdering Ray are genuinely likeable. The plot is simple, but because you invest in these characters very early on, the real story comes from you, the viewer, and you realise quickly that you very much want all these characters to be alright.

The Devil’s Candy doesn’t try to be anything else but a spooky horror movie with a killer soundtrack. Which in this day and age where filmmakers seem to increasingly want to out-do one another with brain jarring twists or just out and out violence, is a breath of fresh air.  This film is special in that it is cinema in its purest form. It is made to be enjoyed, and much of the ride is what happens to you, as a person, as you watch. Which sounds simple, but how many horrors have you seen recently that can claim that, and still leave you smiling?


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finding Dory (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
Writers: Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strause
Cast: (voices) Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Sigourney Weaver

Finding Dory is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

The long-awaited Finding Dory is marvellously fun and sweet and whilst not being quite as emotionally powerful as Finding Nemo, basks in the glory of it's stunning visuals and colourful characters to remain highly entertaining and enjoyable.

We once again meet the endearing blue tang fish with the unusual ailment of short-term memory loss, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) a year after she first meets her closest friends, clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence). She is living a happy, fulfilling life in the reef with her friends until she quite abruptly starts to remember fragments of her forgotten childhood and realises that she was only very young when she became separated from her doting parents. Marlin and Nemo agree to join her on her quest to find her loved ones which will take them across the ocean to the California coast where they meet new colourful and quirky friends.

Finding Dory is an incredibly charming and sweet movie which takes the elements which made 2003's Finding Nemo work and replicates them, but perhaps not with the same intensity. Finding Nemo appealed to such a broad audience and remains a Disney favourite of many because of it's stunning animated visuals, wonderful characters and obvious, but adorably relatable themes. Finding Dory grasps the first two of these fan favourites almost as well as the first, but unlike Nemo doesn't have a human story gift-wrapped in tropical fish. The 2003 film was the story of a father knowing when to let go of his son, but also showing the power of parental love and instinct. Finding Dory is the reverse with Dory trying to find her parents in a situation caused by her memory loss which is far less relatable to the greater part of the audience.

It was the relatability of Finding Nemo that gave it the emotional edge that made it an instant Disney Pixar classic. While this aspect is missing from Finding Dory, it is still particularly strong in every other area. The film's location of the Marine Life Institute, an oceanic research facility with theme park elements allows writers, Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strause the freedom to be original with the screenplay and bring in a cast of new and enjoyable characters. The animation, much like the original, is absolutely stunning with the brilliant use of colour used to create the world under the sea and the life on the shore.

Ellen DeGeneres does a fine job in her second outing as the endearing Dory, but it is the new characters which steal the limelight. Finding Dory is flooded with new characters who have big, colourful personalities which are built on their physical characteristics and the stereotypes of their species. Dory's ability to speak whale is cleverly explained by introducing whale shark, Destiny (voiced by Kaitlin Olson) who has a sight problem as a result of her natural head shape. With Destiny comes Bailey (Ty Burrell), the beluga who believes he has been injured because of his head shape and has lost his self esteem as a result and cannot send or receive signals the way his breed of whale should. The sea lions (as voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West) on the rocks outside the institute also provide a great deal of comedy relief.

True to the reputation of sequels, Finding Dory doesn't quite capture the all-encompassing magic of the original, but is nevertheless a sweet, pleasant experience that does entertain and delight.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Sydney Film Festival: Janis:Little Girl Blue (2015)

Year: 2015
Running Time: 103 minutes
Director: Amy J. Berg
Cast: Janis Joplin (archival footage), Cat Power (voice)

Janis: Little Girl Blue screened at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival on Friday June 10 and Wednesday June 15. For more information, please see the official Sydney Film Festival website.

As a look at one of music's most influential females, Janis: Little Girl Blue is loving and special, but at the same time raw and truthful that keeps you unaware of it's power until the very end.

Born in 1943, Janis Joplin was known for her undeniable and unique talent as a blues/rock vocalist as much as she was infamous for her wild and ruthless lifestyle that eventually cost her her life. Amy J. Berg's documentary gives great insight into Joplin's life with archival footage of Joplin herself, never before seen photographs and personal letters and interviews with those who were close to her including her brother and sister, Michael and Laura Joplin, as well as musicians she worked with and others she was in personal relationships with.

While Janis: Little Girl Blue is a must for any Janis Joplin fan, it is not only admirers that will benefit from the film. The film has the ability to create new Joplin fans which is an incredible thing to do in a film that tells her story truthfully and without any trace of hero-worship. Berg paints a picture of a woman who was vibrant and full of life, but was forever fighting her demons in ways that were incredibly self-destructive. Despite the hardships she endured, one is still able to see how she was always true to herself and an extremely strong woman in a male dominated industry. The film has plenty of new footage and information for Joplin fans and leaves those who did not know much about her feeling as though they are experts by the end of the film.

What Janis: Little Girl Blue does which is astounding, is that it doesn't make you realise how much you have come to care about Joplin until the end. While you are aware of absorbing all the information presented to you in the forms of interviews and archival footage, you are unaware that you are also in an emotional process. The fate of Joplin is so well known, but when the film abruptly turns to her death it is quite devastating. Berg makes you feel through the film that you were the one who knew Joplin well and that you haven't just been told about her.

This is in part also due to the fact that the film captures the spirit of the music scene in the late 1960's so well that the audience feels as though they are a part in Joplin's story and not just watching it on the screen. The footage of such events as the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock are nostalgic, but very well preserved and seeing footage of Joplin performing on the big screen is just like being there. As expected, much of her music which is incorporated into the film is both for as events which she sung at and also as an instrument for greater emotion.

Janis: Little Girl Blue is an extremely rare form of documentary about a well-known personality which is able to make people feel so much without even recognising the process and creates new admirers through storytelling.


Sydney Film Festival: Elvis & Nixon (2016)

Year: 2016
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Liza Johnson
Writers: Joey Sagal, Halana Sagal and Cary Elwes
Cast: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters

Elvis & Nixon screened at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival on Thursday June 9. For more information on the Sydney Film Festival, please see their official website.

Elvis & Nixon is a highly fabricated recount of the meeting between one of the world's biggest pop stars and the President of the United States which is a whole lot of fun and embraces it's permission to be over-exaggerated and incredibly goofy.

In December 1970, a meeting took place in the Oval office between then and not yet disgraced president, Richard Nixon (as portrayed by impression extraordinaire Kevin Spacey) and Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon). The photograph of the two that was taken on this occasion is the most requested in the National Archives. However, the transcript for what actually took place during that meeting does not exist so writers Joey Sagal, Halana Sagal and Cary Elwes have taken the liberty of inventing the comical turn of events leading up to and including the dramatically less than ordinary meeting between the two.

Elvis & Nixon has been granted an incredible privilege which barely any other biopics receive as due to the blurry nature of the event, they are given free range with their screenplay. There are several of truths in the story as approved by Elvis' close friend, Jerry Schilling (played by Alex Pettyfer in the film), but much of the film is exaggerated for comedy value. Elvis did indeed want to obtain a badge as a Federal Agent at Large and hand-delivered a letter to the White House where he was able to meet with the President later that day, but these events are built on and enhanced comically for pure entertainment value. Elvis did not attempt to take firearms into the White House and he most definitely would not have got away with it, nor would he have shown his karate moves to or take part in a hand-slap game with the President.

Everything about Elvis & Nixon is exaggerated. This exaggeration is the main source of humour, especially when it comes to the characters. Both Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon have well known and recognisable personality traits that everyone knows so these are exaggerated for comedic value, but not in a disrespectful fashion. This is particularly true of Elvis who is constantly walking around in his stage attire looking more like an Elvis impersonator rather than the man himself and always met with girls falling over themselves squealing. It is not only the characters that are exaggerated in the film, but also the production and costume design and hair and make-up. If this film was a drama or run of the mill biopic, this would be considered irritating and rather goofy, but considering Elvis & Nixon is a comedy it is all forgiven and accepted with open arms.

Despite the over-exaggeration of his character, Michael Shannon gives a solid performance as Elvis Presley. While respectable, it isn't particularly heart-warming nor does it make one feel like they want to revisit any of his music or concerts in a hurry. It feels as though one tender moment where he talks to himself about his twin brother who died at birth has been just thrown in for good measure, but it occurs too late in the film to make any sort of emotional impact for the character.

On the other hand, Kevin Spacey does a fine job as Richard Nixon. Spacey has an infamous knack for impressions as well as being a superb actor so it is with these two qualities that he brings Nixon back to life in a way that is both natural and humorous at the same time. Colin Hanks as presidential aide, Egil 'Bid' Krogh and Evan Peters as Dwight Chapin are also subtly amusing and solid.

Elvis & Nixon avoids the expectations placed on movies that are based on real life events by adopting a comedic persona rather than one which is serious and dramatic and what results is a film which is fun, enjoyable and comfortable in it's exaggeration.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sydney Film Festival: Coconut Hero (2015)

Year: 2015
Running Time: 101 minutes
Director: Florian Cossen
Writers: Elena von Saucken
Cast: Alex Ozerov, Bea Santos, Krista Bridges, Sebastian Schipper

Coconut Hero is part of the 2016 Sydney Film Festival program and will be showing on Saturday June 11 and Saturday June 18. For more information on times, locations and tickets, please see the official Sydney Film Festival website.

Coconut Hero is a film that is a little like it's teenage protagonist in that it is not quite sure what it wants to be. Walking unsteadily along the tightrope between tragedy and comedy, Coconut Hero addresses an extremely troublesome issue which perhaps isn't handled with the amount of respect that it should be.

Teenager with a highly unfortunate name, Mike Tyson (Alex Ozerov) hates his life so much that he decides he must end it sooner rather than later. When he can't even do that right, he becomes an even greater laughing stock than he was to begin with and his overbearing mother (Krista Bridges) becomes even more intolerable. It turns out that his prayers for death are answered when the doctors find he has a brain tumour that needs surgery and Mike suddenly feels freer than he ever has. It is with this realisation that Mike finally starts to live and with that comes the enjoyment in life that he has been seeking.

While Coconut Hero is undeniably beautifully shot and enjoyable for this reason, it is an uncomfortable watch for the wrong reasons. The film has been called both a drama and comedy because while the film is ultimately about teenage depression and suicide, the screenplay is undeniably written in order for the viewer to laugh out loud during the first half of the film. However, it feels wrong to laugh and feels uncomfortable knowing that the filmmakers want you to do so. It is too strong an issue to make any sort of joke out of even though it does attempt to treat it with respect. Those who have had anyone close to them pass away in the same way that Mike attempts to do will not enjoy the film for this reason.

On the other hand, it is simple to figure out what the film is trying to say and that is that life is precious. Mike feels restrained by the torment of being a teenager and as a result fails to find enjoyment in anything. Yet when he is faced with knowing how long he has left to live, he feels free from these chains and starts to take chances by opening himself up to new relationships including one with his long lost father (Sebastian Schipper) and with charismatic Miranda (Bea Santos). The large majority of the population do not have the luxury of knowing how long they have to live so Coconut Hero gives a little encouragement to live and love each day as if it is your last. 

The character of Mike Tyson (not the boxer) as portrayed by Alex Ozerov is a beautiful one despite the film's misgivings about his condition. He is incredibly relatable in that one understands exactly how he is feeling and why. Ozerov easily evokes a feeling of great sympathy where one wishes that there was someone there to help him make sense of the world. His performance gains momentum as the film progresses and his character gains every greater depth in doing so.

Coconut Hero does have the sweetest of intentions, but the tough issue it is built on makes it somewhat troublesome.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sydney Film Festival: Shepherds and Butchers (2016)

Year: 2016
Running Time: 80 minutes
Director: Oliver Schmitz
Writer:  Chris Marnewick (novel), Brian Cox (screenplay)
Cast: Steve Coogan, Garion Dowds, Andrea Riseborough, Deon Lotz

Shepherds and Butchers is part of the 2016 Sydney Film Festival program and will be screening on Thursday June 9 and Friday June 10. For more information on times, venues and tickets, please see the official Sydney Film Festival website.

Based on the novel of the same name by Chris Marnewick, Shepherds and Butchers is an exceptionally powerful film that is extremely graphic and intense in a way that is needed in order to understand the complexity of it's story.

Set in South Africa in 1987, lawyer Johan Webber (Steve Coogan) is given the case that nobody else wanted to defend a young prison guard named Leon Labuschagne (Garion Dowds) who shot dead seven men. While the unwanted case seems completely hopeless to Webber, he soon realises that while there is no denying the fact that Labuschagne did commit this crime, he was not in sound mind when it occurred due to extremely unhealthy and traumatising working conditions he was made to partake in while still a teenager. The case soon turns to make Webber and the jury question not whether he was guilty or not, but whether Labuschagne was also one of the victims.

Shepherds and Butchers asks the boldest of questions in the most powerful of ways. Capital punishment was abolished in South Africa in 1995 by Nelson Mandela, but many of the questions asked by the characters openly and silently still ring true today. The obvious question is what justifies killing and who's hand is it by in such a situation as capital punishment, but the major question which is often subtely implied and other times not quite so is what makes a victim. The victims of the case are the seven men who will killed on the road that night by Labuschagne, but then Labuschagne is also seen to be a victim as he was thrust into an unforgiving and horrendous job when he was only 17 years old and as a result has suffered greatly from it. Then the same can be said for his lawyer, Johan Webber as he has here been made to take a case that he nor anybody else wanted and is judged harshly for doing his job and feels affected by it, so he is also a victim.

The story of Shepherds and Butchers is an intriguing one to begin with as it makes one question so many things, but the film built around the story is what truly makes it so strong and powerful. Flashback scenes in cinema can often be problematic as they do not always achieve the desired effect and can often do more harm than support. Yet here they are employed in exactly the right way and are one of the reasons why the film is so strong. The flashbacks Labuschagne has are blended into his testimony in the courtroom with superb use of sound which intensifies an already stressful situation. These flashback scenes are graphically realistic and not for the faint-hearted as they do not allow one to believe that death (in this case capital punishment) was a clean business or that one could not be affected by witnessing and partaking in it.

Both Steve Coogan and newcomer, Garion Dowds give incredible performances which are as strong as the film around them. Dowds gives an emotional performance as Labuschagne and has the audience immediately feeling sorry for him as his torment is apparent right from the very first scene. His controlled performance is breathtaking and incredibly intense, especially when he is on the stand in the courtroom. Coogan's performance is also very strong in a role which is unlike his usual comedic persona. While he tries to get his client to break, he himself is getting closer to breaking point and the way his performance builds in strength during the film makes one feel as though he is a bomb ready to explode.

Shepherds and Butchers does not hold back in it's delivery of story which is psychologically and ethically challenging, but in doing so is unforgettable and wonderfully intense unlike many courtroom dramas.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Nice Guys (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 116 minutes
Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black and Anthony Bagarozzi
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Matt Bomer, Yaya Dacosta, Lois Smith, Kim Basinger, Beau Knapp

The Nice Guys are showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed in Australia by Roadshow Films.

Shane Black's The Nice Guys is a hilarious and enjoyable trip back to the 1970's that may not have an air-tight screenplay, but is forgivable as what it lacks in strength of story it makes up for with it's highly entertaining and witty sense of humour.

After the mysterious death of a Hollywood porn star, licensed PI Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and private eye Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) find themselves on opposing sides of the aftermath. While Healy is trying to protect a young girl involved by the name of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), March is trying to hunt her down. Once the two work out their differences, they decide to work together to help protect Amelia and solve the case that involves the underground film industry and the dark side of the city's government with the help of March's young but wise daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice).

The Nice Guys see's director and co-writer Shane Black working with a formula that has worked so well for him in the past. It is not a formula he exclusively relies on in his screenplays, but the male duo fighting crime in Los Angeles is an obvious favourite for him to have as the basis for his films as we have seen in the Lethal Weapon films and 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The Nice Guys is another variation of this with our heroes or antiheroes being a product of the tired, but atmospheric city of Los Angeles in the 1970's. The scenery with it's offbeat and eccentric characters offers a wonderful backdrop to this story of crime and corruption with elements of comedy, action and drama woven in.

While the screenplay may not be as tightknit as it should be with several obvious unrealistic and unexplained aspects being included just to move the story along, this can be overlooked and at times even forgotten. It is the comedy, unrelenting and often violent action scenes and nostalgic backdrop which supports The Nice Guys and makes it well-paced and enjoyable. The film is indeed very funny and is enhanced by the underrated comedic ability of Ryan Gosling. However, the comedy does at times feel forced and not as though it is a naturally flowing part of the scene and yet then there are other scenes that involve situational humour (such as the early scene in the bathroom) which are almost relatable.

The Los Angeles featured in The Nice Guys is one which is very tired. The town was in the period after the Golden Age where much of the glitz and glamour had left Hollywood and what was left over was a sleazy, grimy town that still had a golden streak through it where the fortunate and those still aiming for fame and fortune congregated. The introduction to this town in the 1970's is perfectly embodied at the beginning of the film with the aerial shot of Los Angeles over the neglected and unpolished "Hollywood" sign which was once a symbol of the city of dreams, but by the 70's might as well have been the symbol of a town of broken dreams. Everything from the wonderful costume design by Kym Barrett to the production design by Richard Bridgland and the enjoyable musical soundtrack is perfect for the times and creates a distinct feeling of nostalgia.

In a film such as The Nice Guys which is built around a working partnership between two characters, chemistry is absolutely crucial. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling work extremely well together on screen and balance each other out perfectly. The two characters are carefully crafted with interesting background stories that explain why they each possess certain character traits. Ryan Gosling's Holland March is certainly the more interesting of the two as he has a tragic background story. Yet in the person he has become because of these circumstances, he embodies the persona of a tragic clown where his unhappiness and instability paves way for comedy.

Angourie Rice gives a spectacular breakthrough performance as Holly March, who is also quite an intriguing character. Barely a teenager herself, she has resumed the role of the woman of the house and supports her father with all his misgivings and doesn't see the world through rose-coloured glasses. Yet despite all she sees, she still maintains an air of innocence and naivety and it is because of this that Rice gives an exceptionally strong performance of this adult in a child's body.

The Nice Guys takes a simple plot that has been seen many times in cinema over the years and rejuvenates it with Shane Black's unique sense of humour and an accurate and atmospheric depiction of Los Angeles in a time past.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016) film review

Year: 2016
Running Time: 113 minutes
Director: James Bobin
Writers: Lewis Carroll (books), Linda Woolverton (screenplay)
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Rhys Ifans, Timothy Spall, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Leo Bill

Alice Through The Looking Glass is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Walt Disney Motion Pictures

When one thinks about the thought process that must have taken place when deciding to do a sequel to the live action Alice in Wonderland, you could well imagine it would have been along the lines of
"Everyone else is doing it, why not?"

Alice Through The Looking Glass is a cross between a sequel and an en vogue origins film. Underneath it's somewhat monotonous yet very attractive abstract exterior, the film has some interesting and enjoyable character studies of those larger than life personalities made popular by Lewis Carroll in the 1800's. The Tim Burton directed 2010 film had people divided with many not enjoying the over the top spectacle created and the liberties that Disney took with the story and it's characters, while others were quite happy with the film's flamboyancy they felt it captured the true surreal nature of the original story itself.

In the second Disney live-action Alice film, James Bobin takes over the reins from Tim Burton who 's presence is still greatly felt throughout the film as he steps into the role as producer. Alice Through The Looking Glass does not have much in common with the book in which it is based on, "Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found" by Lewis Carroll. In fact, the original Disney animated Alice in Wonderland in 1951 draws more inspiration from this book than this 2016 film does. Disney took great liberties with the 2010 film, which was not entirely a bad thing as it breathed new life into the story that has been adapted many times for film. These liberties continue into the new film which means that the only aspects of it that resemble the book are it's title and that Alice does, funnily enough, re-enter Wonderland through a looking glass.

Upon returning from her voyage as captain of the ship, the Wonder, Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska) find herself still ridiculed for being a woman and is hardly taken seriously when trying to conduct business transactions. When she is starting to lose faith in herself and in the impossible, she is once again transported back to Wonderland through the looking glass and finds her friend, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) in a terrible state. She is able to help him, but this requires going back in time and altering the past to stop Hatter falling into darkness in the future.

Once again, the great focus on the Mad Hatter in this film does feel as though the filmmakers are trying to maximise the use of Johnny Depp. This is not saying that Depp does a bad job, but it is not a particularly complicated performance either. The relationship with the Hatter that Alice has and had in the first film is far from what Lewis Carroll had in mind when he wrote the book and this is one of the things that audiences found and will find problematic. Had the Mad Hatter been played by anyone else besides Depp would his part in these two films been as large? Quite possibly not. Yet with Tim Burton at the helm in 2010 he was always the obvious choice for the role. Even without Burton, if one had to name the working actor who would make the best Hatter in a live-action Alice in Wonderland, Depp's name would have immediately sprung to mind. However, the right casting of an actor who is known for his quirky roles as one of literature's quirkiest characters still does not do much to ease the uncomfortable thought that the character was reimagined purely to suit him.

Had Alice Through The Looking Glass been purely an origins story about each of the characters and their backgrounds, it may have been a great deal more entertaining and enjoyable. The same can be said for if it was purely a sequel about what happened the next time Alice went to Wonderland. Yet it is the fact that it tries to do both of these things in one film that makes it weak as a whole. Bobin's film does try to be too many things which is where it's impact as a spectacle and as any type of emotional experience is lost. The flying back and forwards between time is not as much confusing as it is purely dizzying and irritating. However, the idea of Time being part man and part machine as portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen is a clever one and is a great addition to the array of interesting characters that already exist in the film and makes the time travel bearable.

With the characters come many opportunities for emotion and depth, particularly with the Mad Hatter's inner torment and between sisters, the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway). However, Depp, Carter and Hathaway do give the right amount of emotion for what is written into the story and none give a bad performance by any means, but any more tears or affection would actually seem out of place considering the lack of intensity in the film.

It is a shame because visually Alice Through The Looking Glass is extraordinary and often quite intense, particularly in the opening ocean scenes and when Alice is using the Chronosphere to transport herself back and forward through time. The production design for inside the world that is Wonderland and especially that of Time's castle is extraordinary and the use of colour is magnificent. Yet it is here in the visuals that Alice Through The Looking Glass's power is and not in the screenplay. Although screenwriter Linda Woolverton has attempted to make a film that is intended to be character driven, Bobin has neglected to take the time to allow the audience to sympathize and relate to the characters.

However, Mia Wasikowska should be complimented on her obvious growth as an actress since her breakthrough role as Alice in the 2010 film. Even from the very first scene, she is a great deal more powerful in her delivery than in Alice in Wonderland and like all leading ladies should be, gives the best performance out of anybody in the film. One thing that both the earlier film and this one have tried to do is install a sense of independence into Alice and make her a good role model for young girls, which is something that Wasikowska has been able to accomplish.

Any type of "Alice in Wonderland" adaptation is met with a certain sense of magic and despite the weak and busy screenplay, Alice Through The Looking Glass still maintains a whimsical air.