ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS [PG] D+
This Tim Burton-produced affair from director James Bobin (the helmer in charge of the two recent “Muppet” big-screen re-inventions) certainly has the feel of a trippy Burton fantasy, not to mention the presences of Burton stalwarts Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (as the Mad Hatter and Iracebeth, respectively). Yet, for all the stylistic flourishes, it is the narrative – a time jumping affair with Alice (Mia Wasikowska) attempting to stay one step ahead of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) in order to learn from the past rather than changing it – that stalls and falls quite flat. Wit, rhyme and rhythm come and go, failing to draw much attention, and the proceedings are overstuffed with repeated plot lines meant to link characters and their motivations and all of the usual pretzel logic derived from time travel stories. In the end, “Alice Through the Looking Glass” never descends into the black pit of the truly horrific; instead, it simply fades from memory, almost immediately after the final flicker of light leaves the frame, leaving us with nothing meaningful to reflect on.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE [PG-13] D
Lack of long-term planning and execution, much more evident in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fronted by Disney, has plagued the X-Men movie universe. Bryan Singer has produced what amounts to a series of one-off installments, with the gimmick of following the team through the decades as the lone nod to structural grounding. With so many classic stories (even without the benefit of connection to the larger Marvel comic book world of characters) to build upon and present in a cinematic format, the outcome thus far feels like a genuine squandering of potential. The latest “X-Men: Apocalypse” sets down in the 1980s with one of the team’s greatest villains, ill-defined allusions to Dark Phoenix, an unexplained Weapon X program segment, and a haphazard collection of students at the Xavier School that fails miserably to develop into meaningful personalities behind the blank faces. Despite these miscues, there are fleeting moments of real joy – whenever Quicksilver (Evan Peters) graces the screen – that remind the faithful of the buried x-factor waiting to be exhumed. The question seems to be whether it is worth trying to develop a cohesive plan from the end of the “First Class” trilogy or simply start from scratch.