Double Feature: Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) & Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

Welcome to the next double feature! Its been at least a month since the last one and I’m slowly feeling up to writing reviews after a 2 week (or so) break after Fantasia! I did watch these two around the beginning of Fantasia Festival.

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Director: James Bobin

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anne Hathaway

Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to help the Mad Hatter. – IMDB

Alice Through the Looking Glass is the sequel to the live action Alice in Wonderland. While this live action adaptation is usually negatively rated, I see the flaws but somehow these  whimsical things work okay for myself. It becomes quite entertaining. Alice Through the Looking Glass has its issues and sometimes it doesn’t work as well as it might have hoped for but there are a few redeeming traits here. Lets just get it out there that as many times as I have started reading the source material by Lewis Carroll, I haven’t finished it so I have no idea how similar it is to the book. I do feel that some things were a little over the top in possibly the way it was portrayed however, the whimsical suspension of belief is expected and never a surprise. I like over the top fantastical elements so its why I still watch these movies.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

There is a lot of silliness in Alice Through the Looking Glass. The redeeming character is still always Mia Wasikowska as Alice. She is such a spectacular actress who takes on different types of roles but excels in them. In this one, I loves her outfits and the journey she takes and altogether, keeping to how Alice is with the character traits. To be honest, most of the characters from the previous film did keep in character. Which pretty much means that if you didn’t like the first one, chances are that you might not like this one as it feels a little bit even more odd than before. Something here doesn’t fit together completely and yet I never pinpoint what it is. Perhaps its the weird Anne Hathaway performance as the White Queen and the story behind her and the Queen of Hearts. There is a slight entertainment value to Sacha Baron Cohen as Time.

Visually, Alice Through the Looking Glass delivers just like the first film. The characters also carry a lot of fun elements to them and are a joy to watch. However, the story behind her fighting to retrace the Mad Hatter’s childhood and learning about the White Queen and  Queen of Hearts story as well as having Time chase her through time and space felt a little lacking. Maybe its just not so personal when Alice does learn something about herself through this but the link of everyone in those stories just doesn’t feel like it adds up to more than it should.

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017)

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly MacDonald, Will Tilston, Alex Lawther

A behind-the-scenes look at the life of author A.A. Milne and the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories inspired by his son C.R. Milne. – IMDB

I’m not much of a biopic person. If you haven’t noticed, I try to stay away from biopic or drama or something like that. Movies are a means of entertainment to escape from drama so its one of the reasons why they tend to be the least chosen genre in film. I still watch them but they are infrequent. With that said, its hard to resist the biopic of A.A. Milne, the man who brought to life Thousand Acres Woods and Winnie the Pooh and his gang. As much as this is about the fame of Winnie the Pooh and this world, this biopic focuses on A.A. Milne’s relationship with his son and the reason of why this fun and fictional world even exists in the first place.

goodbye Christopher Robin

If there’s something more than Pooh Bear that I can’t resist, its a father and son relationship, well any parent and child relationship usually tugs pretty hard at my heartstrings. It feels pretty genuine in the way that this whole thing is portrayed. Domhnall Gleeson has a huge part in this because he does a fantastic job at portraying A.A. Milne. His character and the father he is and the man that he is and just how what he has gone through has changed him but no one quite understands him, especially his wife, played by Margot Robbie. However, we all have something to thank in this world and even adults sometimes make the choices when they get carried away with a situation and this is how Winnie the Pooh may have saved a lot of kids and was the world for so many people but in the end, it somehow deteriorated this father and son relationship and created a misunderstanding. Its this story and this human relationship that makes this film really good.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is a fairly simple story and the feelings and relationship is so genuine that it makes it tug at our heartstrings even more. There’s a lack of communication and a bonding that grows over time because of the choices made by everyone. In some ways, it makes us wonder about this world that has given joy to so many people and yet the bittersweet feelings that come with learning about how there were sacrifices to sharing this world that A.A. Milne created with his son with everyone else and the fame and popularity ate away at their relationship. After you watch this, it feels like its a conflict that never quite gets resolved and whether it feels like everyone else had invaded into someone else’s imaginary world. Maybe I’m thinking too much into it but this movie is pretty bittersweet by the end.

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Ocean’s Eight (2018)

Before we start this review, perhaps a few things need to laid out. If you watched my What’s Up, you will know that I already talked about this. While I’ve seen Ocean’s 11 and that trilogy (or maybe I haven’t seen Ocean’s 13 because I can’t remember), I honestly can’t remember a whole lot of what goes on except that Ocean’s 11 was pretty fun and had some big stars in it. With that said, Ocean’s 8 is kind of a new slate for me which works because it turns out that its a standalone story with a few nods in terms of characters and such. I usually don’t go to watch films like this at theatres but one of my good friends took me so who am I to argue with time with friends, right? Plus, would you look at the cast here? A ton of my faves all in one movie sounds like a ton of fun. Let’s hope it is!

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

ocean's 8

Director: Gary Ross

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sara Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, Rhianna, Richard Armitage, James Corden

Debbie Ocean gathers an all-female crew to attempt an impossible heist at New York City’s yearly Met Gala. – IMDB

Judging from my above comment, you could say that I enjoyed the Ocean’s Eleven and Twelve heist movies but then I’m not exactly remembering a ton from it so maybe not exactly my favorite movies ever. With that said, my appreciation for Ocean’s 8 draws exactly from the little things I remember from the male centric ones and that is the cast. Ocean’s 8 hook is its fantastic ladies. Everyone delivers in absolutely glory.

The movie starts off with quite a few comedic moments as we see Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock be released from prison. There is this sarcastic and fun humor as Debbie and Lou (Cate Blanchett) go to find the other members for this epic heist she has in mind which leads to some comedic moments of knowing a little more about each of them as we get a glimpse of their life and their pressures but also their fortes that make them an asset to the group. Rhianna, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sara Paulson and Awkwafina as well as Anne Hathaway all fall into place for this plan to work out. And they all deliver so well. I have only heard of Awkwafina and haven’t seen Mindy Kaling before so I don’t know what to say much but Rhianna has grown so much as an actress. I am not a big fan of her music but she gets involved in some great movies now. Helena Bonham Carter also has some awkward movies before but in this one, she fits well in it. At the same time, I am telling you that I have a huge lady crush on Sara Paulson. She always delivers so well and I just love her.

In terms of the heist, I have always been a fan on seeing the movie magic happen because it is both entertaining and fun when it is thought out well and puts all the pieces into motion and there is always a twist and some tension. With Ocean’s 8, it delivers a lot of these fronts. While the setup had a lot of comedic moments, the heist actually had a fair amount of tensions. The heist also stands out in not only watching the plan roll out with whichever snag it hits because what movie would it be without (I guess some might say that its a tad formulaic) but also these ladies and their beautiful outfits. Its impossible to not feel this beauty and intelligence in one package as well as triumph. These ladies are what makes the heist happen and I think the biggest accomplishment is that we see them as a unit because of their differences and connect to them so we care about what happens.

These movies are all about the star power and while these all female casts cause so much talk, I’d like to stray away and just talk about how fantastic these star-powered casts bring to the table. Hence, the long chat about. However, Ocean’s Eight did bring in some humor from the men as well. For one, we have Richard Armitage which I haven’t seen in anything for a long time. The man is super charming and well, he got what he deserves. Let’s just put it that way. While small, it still had its significance. We had  cameo of sorts by James Corden and I’m telling you that lately I’ve started watching those Carpool Karaoke videos and this guy is pretty hilarious and I think he pulls off some great comedic moments as well here.

Overall, Ocean’s Eight is a fun and entertaining time. There’s a lot of comedic moments and my fave sarcastic humor. There is a slew of beautiful and talented cast here who work so well with each other. That is the true star plus the outfits are so pretty and lovely. The heist itself works fairly well and had its tense moments. There’s a lot of like about Ocean’s Eight and while I might not remember from Ocean’s Eleven in terms of specifics, I remember that fun feeling I had when the film ended and we get the same thing here.

Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella is the best girls night out movie and that’s exactly what we planned weeks in advance.  We all rushed out of work and met up at the theatres on Tuesday night. Its felt like its been a while since I’ve been to the theatres and I’m wondering if I’m actually on track with my one monthly theatre visit goal.  I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter. If you missed my anticipated list for 2015, this is one of them 🙂

Lets check out Cinderella!

Cinderella (2015)

cinderella 2015

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Stellan Skarsgard, Helena Bonham Carter

When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.- IMDB

Does Cinderella still have its magic after so many years? How about after turning it (like many other fairy tales) into a live action? I went into this movie pretty much with those two questions lingering in my mind.  I’ve skipped out on a lot of live reimaginings of fairy tales and all that sort of stuff but Cinderella is possibly one of the most popular and has a ton of movies inspired by them.  Even the not so at par ones tend to make me fall in love one way or another. So how does this 2015 version fair?

This live version Cinderella is almost an exact imagining of the Disney animated version that I love a lot.  It has the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, a gorgeous blue gown, mice, pumpkins, evil stepmother and two untalented and not very appealing stepsisters and of course, the Prince.  The only thing that;s different might be that Cinderella starts out as Ella and that we see her parents and living out her mother’s wishes to “have courage and be kind.” Even though you probably know exactly what is going to happen next, the magical appeal of Cinderella is still as apparent as ever, infecting me with lots of laughter and love and all those awesome feelings.

Cinderella 2015

This Cinderella may not have the songs in the animated version, but the soundtrack and sweeping score was absolutely beautiful. I’d buy it in a heartbeat and listen to it all the time.  It added to the magic.  While we are on the magic, the CGI was gorgeous, enforcing the whole enchanting experience.  That was a huge part in making this as wonderful as it was.  Just the whole fairy godmother sequence, transforming and preparing Cinderella for the Royal Ball was maybe THE best part ever! I’m sure a ton of you caught this but Cinderella keeps singing Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly and that is also a song from a 1940s Disney film.  I’ve never actually heard the whole song but it was kind of nice to see it here.

Cinderella 2015

Live action also means we can talk about the acting.  We already are well familiar with Cinderella’s characters.  First of all, no Disney princess story is memorable without the right villain.  In this one, the evil stepmother, Lady Tremaine, played by Cate Blanchett was stunning and so mean.  Those expressions and tones for her dialogue was so convincing. At the same time, this one also added a little extra for her character as to why she’s the way she is.  As small as it is, I like this version of the evil stepmother.  Nothing made me laugh more than how the stepsisters are actually just extremely spoilt and untalented. The idea of bringing back the singing off tune and saying stupid things really works for Drizella and Anastasia because thats the character we know, simply shallow and undesirable.  Oh, and their outfits don’t make you laugh and cringe at the same time.  I loved it!

Cinderella 2015

My last point to talk about are the couple: Ella and the Prince.  That is the essence of the story.  Before the movie, one of my girl friends was telling me how she didn’t find Richard Madden handsome.  In fact, sometimes the Prince isn’t that handsome, the person himself maybe, but its the character the he embodies that we fall in love with.  I’m not going to discuss whether I find Richard Madden handsome but I guess I’m simple as well but that man has a lovely accent in his voice and the way he captured the Prince stole my heart from the first time him and Ella met.  Suffice to say, I bought his Prince very much.  To be honest, I’ve never watched either Richard Madden or Lily James before this.  No, I haven’t seen Game of Thrones and no, I haven’t gotten to Season 5 of Downton Abbey (before you ask). Lily James as Ella kind of bothered me when I was watching the trailer.  I wasn’t completely sold on it but as the movie went along, she grew on me.  It may be because she’s so simple and pure-hearted yet courageous and strong.

cinderella 2015

And these glass slippers! OMG! 🙂

Regardless of the reasons, Cinderella is a simple love story and this version remembers to keep the elements of the original animated version except giving us a live version full of wonderful performances from cast.  It introduces lots of sharp colors, breathtaking location/set, beautiful CGI and an enchanting score to enforce the magic.  Sure, its not exactly as memorable as the animated Disney Classic but there’s still a lot to love about this. I’d gladly watch this again and get the Blu-ray when it comes out.  My suggestion, if fairy tales are your cup of tea, head out to the theatres to see it because its worth your time and money just to capture the true beauty of it.

Fun fact (paraphrased from the Cineplex magazine, March/April 2015): More than 250 metres of fabric was used in the making of the blue gown worn by Lily James.  Three time Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell also used more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals and three miles of stitching to complete the dress.  Impressed? Multiply those numbers by nine.  Nine copies of the ball gown were created for the shoot.

Have you seen Cinderella? Are you planning to? Just out of the blue, which Disney princess do you like best? 

Les Miserables (2012)

les miserablesDirector: Tom Hooper

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Raymayne, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit

Les Miserables is a Broadway based on the famous book by Victor Hugo with the same name.  It has gone on for over 25+ years on stage and is renowned. This movie is an adaptation of that Broadway led by the producer of Cameron Mackintosh who is also the one who put it all together on stage.  I will give you a general plot summary in case you are unfamiliar with it.  Les Miserables is about the life of a man called Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman).  He was convicted because he stole some bread for his sister’s dying child and after that trying to escape, he ended up staying as a slave in jail for 19 years.  When he gets his parole by Javert (Russell Crowe), that is where his story starts.  Valjean is angry at the world and of the prejudice and discrimination he gets because of his convict.  The cause is poverty and when the priest welcomes him, he steals his silver and runs away.  When he is caught, the priest defend him and say that he gave it to him as gifts and gets rid of the police.  He then asks him to use the silver well and become an honest man.  Flashing forward eight years later, we see that he now is the mayor and is known around the town. He lets go of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) accidentally and then leads up to her falling deeper and deeper.  In regret, he saves her and promises to take care of her daughter, Cosette.  At this time, Javert has entered into the town as the police.  He learns of Valjean’s identity and then pursues him to bring him back to the law.  Valjean quickly escapes and runs to save Cosette from the innkeeper (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter).  After he escapes from town, we flash forward to another nine years later and they are at the brink of a French Revolution.  General Lamarque, who stands up for the people is on his deathbed and the people are getting ready to rebel lead by Enroljas (Aaron Tveit) and Marius (Eddie Raymayne).  We also see that Valjean and a grown up Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) has returned.  Through this, we get the love story that comes alive with Cosette and Marius.  We also see Eponine (Samantha Barks), who has a crush on Marius and is the innkeepers’ daughter and she helps.  Its here that the French Revolution happens and Valjean decides to help out in hopes to protect Marius. Long plot summary, I know but it was the only way that I could bring everyone into the picture.

Let me first by saying that out of the few 2012 movies I did see and I saw some really high expectation ones, this one is my film of the year for 2012.  Its not because I do love the Broadway and the music to bits.  The story is fantastic.  I had my doubts about this movie even though I was pretty hyped up about it.  Knowing the musical itself very well, this could have easily bombed, as most musicals adapted into movies turn out.  This one had wonderful voices to support it.  Thats one of the most important parts because it is ALL singing.  The dialogue is sang just like the original musical.  Now that we are on music and vocals.  If I was to treat this as a standalone film, its perfect.  However, I do know the actual musical, there was a few issues with casting.  Russell Crowe has a beautiful voice but I didn’t think it was strong enough for the role of Javert, but since he nailed the last solo song that he performed, I let it pass.  Hugh Jackman really made the role his own.  The BEST role was Fantine as she was captivating and just pulled at my heartstrings.  However, if I was to put a weak link, I’d say it would be Amanda Seyfried.  She has a very sweet voice and she did a pretty good job as Cosette but her voice wasn’t as high so it turned a bit shaky and that bothered me a bit.  I was extremely shocked by Eddie Raymayne.  That guy is a wonderful actor and has an amazing voice and just his expressions when he did his solo was just amazing.  I’d also like to give special mention to Samantha Barks, as she is a really awesome Eponine.  She also played this role for the 25th anniversary in concert performance and she was fantastic in that as well.  I’d really like to see her in more movies because she makes a pretty good actress.  Another special mention is to the priest who did the role of Jean Valjean in the 10th anniversary musical.  Although, I think Jackman got some pointers from him on being a good Valjean because there are similarities in the way  he expresses it.  I wonder if that did happen.

Another thing that a lot of people seemed to criticize was the close up shooting of the characters.  I actually thought that it did add to the movie experience because above all, this is a musical and a lot of the acting is in how they express themselves in their faces and perhaps less their movements.  I can tell how it could be bothersome at times, but nothing beat the biggest thing that is unique to my movie experience and thats French subtitles for the lyrics flashing at the bottom which cut off part of the performer’s face because of the close-up.  It comes with the territory though, so what can I say? It was something I had to live with.

Another mention has to go out that this is produced by Cameron Mackintosh who is the one who put together the musical in the first place.  To me, he is renowned for putting together successful musicals and seeing him being the producer of this already gave it so much  more promise.  Very pleased with that!

It turned my New Year’s Eve into a slight cry fest because it was just so emotional.  To have me cry in public is not a easy thing to do, but I did because it was done so well.

This movie is a must-see because its probably the best musical that has been made so far.  I highly recommend it if you are into musicals.  If you aren’t, it might be harder for you to enjoy it.