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ALICE IN WONDERLAND

Studio: Disney

Rated: PG for fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, and for a smoking caterpillar (seriously, a smoking caterpillar)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Crispin Glover

Directed by: Tim Burton

What it’s about: Tim Burton re-imagines a continuation of the classic Disney animated film. In this version, Alice is now nineteen and takes another trip down the rabbit hole. There, she meets her old friends and teams up with the Mad Hatter to try and overthrow the Red Queen and bring the White Queen back as the rightful ruler of the land.

What I liked: Like any Tim Burton movie, you have to really enjoy his style to get into this film. I, for one, love his work. There’s a clear gothic creepiness to his production design that really clicks with the backdrop. As someone who has enjoyed the many versions of Alice in Wonderland, I like this new take on the existing legend.

Burton borrows from several previous films, including the Narnia series near the end of this film. What starts are a relatively simple alternate version of the animated movie we know and love turns into an epic fantasy adventure.

Alice in Wonderland is released in 3D, which annoys some people (to whom I say, just go see it in 2D instead, then), but for someone like me, I love it. The digital 3D experience immerses you in the film, and for the moment Alice falls down the rabbit hole, the audience is taken along for the ride. It’s not the greatest 3D experience around, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

What I didn’t: Going back to the original Lewis Carroll books, you won’t find a great depth of story. Instead (and especially in the original book), the plot consists of Alice wandering around Wonderland and marveling at the things she encounters. With this background, it’s no surprise that the movie is a bit weak on character and plot… but that seems to keep in step with its nonsensical origins.

If you’re not a Tim Burton fan, you might get tired of this film fast. It’s really just the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory treatment to a different source material.

Who is gonna like this movie: Tim Burton fans and people who love 3D.

Grade: B+

BROOKLYN’S FINEST

Studio: Overture

Rated: R for bloody violence throughout, strong sexuality, nudity, drug content and pervasive language

Starring: Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Wesley Snipes and Jesse Williams

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

What it’s about: Three cops find their lives tied together over the course of a week in New York City. One makes a living doing drug busts and is tempted by the money that is confiscated. Another is a deep cover detective that finds the thin blue line blurred. The third is a veteran beat cop only a week from retirement. On one fateful night, their lives come together in a surprisingly violent way.

What I liked: I tend to like the films of Antoine Fuqua, who gave us Training Day and Tears of the Sun. He’s a gritty, powerful director that refuses to pull punches. He gives a rough and tumble film filled with all sorts of crime and corruption.

There are some stand-out performances in this film, most notable being that of Don Cheadle, who manages to look cool in everything he does (which includes Hotel for Dogs, thank you very much). Will Patton serves as a good foil for Cheadle, but it’s Ellen Barkin who really steals the show in their scenes. Even Ethan Hawke, who is normally dripping with self love, manages to deliver a solid performance.

What I didn’t: There are some serious pacing issues with this film, and it seems to have its origins in the script stage. Some storylines are not timed out properly, having days seem to pass in one arc while the other takes place over an afternoon. It’s like watching The Empire Strikes Back and trying to explain the time differential between Luke on Degobah and the gang on the Millennium Falcon.

The different storylines get repetitive, forcing me to wonder how often it’s necessary to remind us that Ethan Hawke’s character needs to make a down payment on a house. When all the stories do come together, they sort of skirt by each other rather than colliding with any sort of significance.

And even amid some fine performances, there are some that just don’t work. For example, Richard Gere as a Brooklyn beat cop is about as convincing as Kevin Costner as Robin Hood. And Wesley Snipes proves that no matter how good looking you are, corn rows make you look really goofy.

But the biggest sin this film commits is giving characters that I couldn’t give a damn about. If these are Brooklyn’s finest, then Brooklyn is hosed.

Who is gonna like this movie: Those who want a cop movie without Tracy Morgan or Bruce Willis.

Grade: D


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