Say you want to create a sequel to one of the most cherished fantasy tales of all time. The protagonist is older but has forgotten the legend and mystique of a faraway land. Unless the hero regains form, the antagonist will continue a tyrannical reign that destroys fun, laughter and imagination. This adaptation will be directed by one of the most popular directors of the past 30 years, someone who infuses creativity and absurdity into a fresh take of a storied character. This movie shall be called "Hook."
It took a little while for the realization to set in that Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" is just a retread of Steven Spielberg's Peter Pan sequel. What didn't take long was an overwhelming sense of boredom to settle in as I watched the film. I left the theater unfulfilled and disappointed. Had I not known Johnny Depp was portraying the Mad Hatter (due to Depp being the only actor heavily promoted before the film's debut) I easily would have mistaken him for Dave Foley. This led me to revisiting thoughts I had while watching "Public Enemies": I just don't find Depp to be that good of an actor. He's interesting and quirky, but he isn't as enthralling as Matt Damon, Edward Norton or Robert Downey, Jr., to name a few of his contemporaries.
The production design, sets, and costumes are masterfully composed, but the animation, especially in 3D is lacking (considerably so when compared to Avatar). The performances are mostly dull, save for Helena Bonham Carter and Crispin Glover. All of the familiar Alice characters are there, but the film lacks depth and true substance. Skip it.
The Ghost Writer
Roman Polanski returns after a five year hiatus with a suspenseful, cunning political thriller that's just short of being a masterstroke. The film features a talented cast, lead by Ewan McGregor. McGregor is working as a ghost writer for the former prime minister of the United Kingdom.
McGregor quickly goes from author to detective as he begins unearthing an intricate plot that may have caused the demise of his predecessor. The performances are all strong and the film delivers on the suspense. The plot may be a bit far fetched, but is rooted in current events giving it an air of authenticity. The final scene nearly sours the taste of the film, but the final 3 minutes won't ruin an otherwise great movie. See it.