Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Alice Through The Looking Glass
Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, and Anne Hathaway
About: I remember when I first saw "Return to Oz." I love "The Wizard of Oz," it's a classic, who doesn't love it. So I was excited about the sequel... until I saw it. What I got wasn't that wonderful, it was more jarringly odd and disconcerting. The familiar characters were there, but the story just didn't work. It was odd, quirky, and a little boring. That's what I felt seeing "Alice Through The Looking Glass." When "Alice in Wonderland" debuted a few years ago, I loved it. Tim Burton had a great take and a meaningful story. This one returns to the world and characters, but something is diminished. It's fine. The performances are fine. The enrapturing colors and sets are fine. But the story lacks some spark. Maybe you just can't go to the world again. But there's a reason this is a summer blockbuster that's flopped. It's OK, but it doesn't rise to the level of the original in any way.
Rating: PG for fantasy action/peril and some language.
Verdict: Two stars out of four.
Now You See Me 2
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harelson, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman
About: Summer is a unique time at the movies. The days are long and hot, the theaters are cool and dark. We have less structured routines so, naturally, we get a plethora of breezy entertainment options at the local theater. In 2013, “Now You See Me” waded into those summer waters and drew a crowd. It was a sometimes clever, sometimes fun and always entertaining little film. It had a good tone, some nice performances and a good enough reveal at the end of the film. It also made money. So what might have been a nice little one off became something else. Three years later, we get the sequel we never expected. Most of the players are back, they’re up to their old caper ways and they’re trying to fool us once again. This sequel has a new writer and director but the same basic premise and glossy sheen. Director Jon M. Chu, who directed a pair of “Step Up” movies and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” has a feel for the breezy fun that this movie should be. The magic tricks work, the plot is fine if you don’t think about it too hard and the character development isn’t entirely absent. The sequel gets a few things right. It makes the most of its returning cast — even adding a fun duel role for Harelson that manages to stay just on the right side of annoying. And Caplan makes for a great addition. She might feel the most comfortable in her role and looks to be having the most fun aside from Radcliffe, who hams it up as the villain. This movie is about as deep as a puddle, but that works during the summer season. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the first one — and certainly lacks the pop of originality since we’ve seen the formula before — but it manages to be good a summer entertainment. If you were a fan of the first movie, or you like entertaining movies about heists and/or magic, this is worth checking out.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some language.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, June 17 — "Finding Dory," "Central Intelligence"
Friday, June 24 — "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Free State of Jones"
Wednesday, June 29 — "The Shallows"