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Jim Schembri’s new release movie reviews – May 27

MML

THE NICE GUYS ***1/2 (116 minutes) MA

Tapping into the rich tradition of mis-matched buddy action comedies – think Lethal Weapon with less firepower and more laughs – a hefty Russell Crowe and a gangling Ryan Gosling play rival private detectives in 1977 Hollywood who join forces on a missing girl case.

People are getting murdered and it all seems to do with the production of an adult film, the contents of which are dangerous for more than the usual reasons. There’s auto industry intrigue, double crosses, hookers, cocaine, machine guns and Kim Basinger as a Justice Department heavy. It’s a busy film.

Given how neither Crowe nor Gosling have ever really hit big in comedies – we still shudder at the memory of 2006’s A Good Year, Crowe’s clunker with Ridley Scott – they bounce off each other here with a lovely love/hate rhythm. Crowe is the cool muscle man, Gosling the jittery partner. How great it’d be to see them team up for a franchise.

Good as they are, though, third billing in the film goes to the hitherto unknown Angourie Rice, a teenage Melbourne actress who steals more than her fair share of scenes in the film. With a flawless American accent she’s clearly a talent to watch. (Check out our special video interview.)

Director/co-writer Shane Black (Iron Man 3) sets things running at a snappy pace, which helps paper over some of the film’s bigger shortcomings, such as the prevalence of those movie coincidences where unlikely things occur to help keep the plot moving.

Major props must go to the film’s production team for recreating the sounds and looks of the 1970s with such matter-of-fact precision. Those looking for them will find the details exacting, right down to the high heels on the hookers. Some of the suburban street scenes look so authentic – with the brick veneers and giant cars – it’s as though they were filmed with the aid of a time machine.    

Mirror, mirror: Alice (Mia Wasikowska) takes another trip in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Mirror, mirror: Alice (Mia Wasikowska) takes another trip in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS ***1/2 (113 minutes) PG

As Disney continues on its highly lucrative program of delivering mega-sized reboots of the films that built its legacy – look out soon for moneyed makeovers of Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Pinocchio – comes this lavish dose of dazzling eye candy, a sequel to Tim Burton’s 2010 mega-hit Alice in Wonderland.

This time around Burton produces while James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted; Flight of the Conchords; Ali G) does a very good job imitating Burton’s style involving massive set pieces, brilliantly coloured design and intricately orchestrated visual sequences.

With Alice (Mia Wasikowska) now a grown woman and accomplished ship’s captain, she is nonetheless drawn back into Wonderland after the enticements of a butterfly (voiced by the late Alan Rickman, to whom the film is dedicated). Her mission: to pull the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) out of the doldrums by finding his family, long thought lost.

Filled with marvellously conceived visions – giant clocks; vegetable people; a time-travel device; a cackling Helena Bohnam Carter with that over-sized head – the film is designed purely as a kaleidoscopic confection for the eyes and, in those terms, makes for splendid family entertainment.

In essence, this is corporate art as cinema, a cleverly conceived, content-lite film that dazzles with beautifully conjured visuals and a message that reinforces the importance of family while simultaneously reinforcing the family values of the studio brand.

And there is a strange kind of genius in that.

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