Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Roughly two years ago, I discovered a new series as soon as it’s cover met my eye:

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Much to my pleasure, I found that not only are there dozens of ooky-spooky vintage photographs within this book, but the story’s narrative is woven by mentioned photographs – how cool is that? I’m still on the third book, and the series isn’t all that bad. It’s dark and whimsical, just as I like it – lots of cool characters too. The love angle’s a little weird, but that can be discussed another day.

Naturally, like most hit young adult novels, a film adaptation was inevitable; between the eerie imagery and semi-period setting, Burton was an apt choice. As for the remainder of the adaptation, considering all of the deviations… it got kinda weird.

Miss Peregrine follows Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), a teenager who discovers that the amazing stories his late grandfather raised him with may had lead to his mysterious, gruesome death. Jacob uncovers a hidden world lost in time and space, occupied by people known as “peculiars,” (not unlike X-Men‘s mutants) protected by the enigmatic Miss Alma Peregrine (Eva Green).

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Costumes by Colleen Atwood, naturally.

Jake soon finds that he unknowingly lead danger right to his new friends’ door, for though this world is wondrous, it’s is also wrought with horrors.

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Horrors such as Slenderman, apparently.

Sometimes it’s easy to put the source material out of mind, but in the case of Miss Peregrine, something really bothered me about Emma (Ella Purnell). For those unfamiliar with the book, Olive and Emma originally have the opposite abilities (Olive is also a much younger, so that was weird).

As someone who can manipulate fire, Emma is an incredibly strong presence for Jacob, and thusly they have a more complex, interesting relationship. She’s also much braver and more fierce, and downright pretty cool.

By giving Emma the air ability (a tweaked one at that), she seems so much more fragile (if not useless) than necessary, which lends this movie’s greater issue: there are so many characters here, there’s hardly any development. By the end of it, sure Jacob’s got some more guts and gumption. Awesome. And I guess the rest of the kids do too, but can we really say?

Basically what I mean to say is that this film, as fun as it was to see these characters, was terribly shallow. Granted, I figured the studio was shooting more for a one-off rather than a trilogy, but this adaptation felt awfully muddled. Even if I wasn’t familiar with the source material, I feel as if this story would have felt lackluster in the end – not terrible, just really okay.

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Stick with the books kiddos.

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The Lobster

In a world where people are defined by their relationships, we follow one man on his search for compatibility. David (Colin Farrell) is confined to the Hotel, where must find love in 45 days. If he fails to do so, he will be transformed into an animal of his choosing and banished to the forest.

Alas, there is another hope – a group of loveless rebels, “Loners,” also inhabit the forest in order to escape the tyranny of the Hotel, the tyranny of love. Falling in love as a Loner has some gnarly consequences. But of course, we all know that romance can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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Oh, and Hotel patrons hunt Loners for prizes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s surreal, dark, and clever – not to mention, social commentary galore. And it prominently features music from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, so bonus points there.

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Will you give me your loss and your sorrow?

When David flees the Hotel, he is stripped from society’s preconceptions, and like the surrounding fauna, is ruled by instinct. Though forbidden amongst Loners, David finds himself drawn to a nameless near-sighted Loner, who I’ll call “Lady” (Rachel Weisz). Of course, Lady is sweet on him, too.

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As expected, things get pretty dark.

We as people have such strange views on relationships in our society. Decades of advertising have taught us that sex is something we preen for and deserve, lest we end up a sad, lonely loser. The Lobster takes parts of this concept and adds base commentary on objective matchmaking, as well as the addition of children to unhappy homes.

And yet, despite what he and Lady go through in order to pursue what we could deem a “normal” relationship, David is driven by societal standards to make everything worse. This decision in the end is bittersweet: he changes because that is what society has taught him to do, but also by doing so, he can wholly share a world with Lady. Though an abstract portrayal of the things we do for love, I think it’s fair to say that the metaphor is an apt one.

Twisted, strange and oddly beautiful, The Lobster offers all sorts of allegories between the lines. It’s a film that must be watched and discussed. Undoubtedly, it’s something you’ll either get or you don’t – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Just look at this trailer.

At first glance, I fell in love: the stop-motion mixed with a gorgeous cover of one of my favorite songs made my heart and imagination soar. Not to mention the hype in more recent ads, commending the film’s beauty and depth – I was stoked, to say the least. Alas, I left my seat feeling …well, underwhelmed.

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Even with these spooky badasses.

It’s strange to have a Japanese story with a predominately white cast – well, maybe not strange, after all, this has been happening for decades, why stop now? (Despite his appearance in the trailer, George Takei had maybe five lines.)

Though I do have to say that the film is objectively lovely – an absolute spectacle, but suffers under the weight of its own mythos; I found myself begging for more mysticism and lore, but I was only met with the same run-of-the-mill lessons of the importance of story-telling and familial commemoration. Not that these things aren’t important, but maybe I was expecting more depth or at least some deviation of some sort – or hey, maybe some sort of recognition of the shamisen’s significance and history?

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More on Kubo’s mom would have been fantastic.

Speaking of the shamisen, the score and tonality was gorgeous. I’m not sure if it was an issue of time or studio restrictions, but I would have appreciated this film a lot more if it revolved around more myth and magic – I want to know how Kubo learned about his gifts and if and how he was taught these abilities.

And as I mentioned, this is a spectacle – especially in 3D. Director Travis Knight and Laika are no strangers to the third dimension, and they work to capture the potential of this extra space. After all, this is a physical, hand-crafted medium, and I think that deserves some extra respect.

I felt pretty divided at the end of this one. It was lovely, but needed a lot more oomf. There’s a lot of heart to be had, but stops short of definition.

Ghostbusters

Yeh know… it wasn’t that bad.

For starters, I was born in 1991. I saw the original Ghostbusters probably after I saw Space Jam, if you want to put things into perspective. Yes, I loved it and continue to love it, but it did not impact me like those who grew up in the ’80s (or so it seems). And of course, when I initially heard about a remake (reboot?), I was annoyed – because why fix what ain’t broke? Then there was the lady news – I thought that would be kind of cool, but I was still more hung up on the idea that a remake wasn’t necessary. Now, did this movie deserve the outrage it received so early on? Absolutely not.

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I think they look pretty rad.

I’ll skip on the synopsis because it’s pretty straight forward, also spoiler alert.

It’s really hard not to harp on the gender issues here because frankly, all the tv spots about this movie are straight-up girl power – and again, this was one of the biggest public gripes. So let’s talk about, for a bit at least.

If I were 9 and saw this, I would love it to pieces. It’s fun and colorful and funny – and there are chicks kicking phantasmal ass. This is a movie I would need as a young girl, because goddammit, representation is important.  Anecdote: I was a ghostbuster for Halloween last year, and resorted to an ill-fitting men’s suit because otherwise, I had this. Much like skirts and baseball, skirts and ghostbusting don’t mix. (That was a loose League of Their Own – oh nevermind.)

As a young adult viewer, yes, this movie was very entertaining and enjoyable. I felt that the only time the gender-swap dynamic was shoved in your face was with Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) the receptionist, and Rowan (Neil Casey), the creepy villain. Well, I’m only adding Rowan as a devil’s advocate, because I’m sure some folks out there were all like “THE ONLY MEN IN THIS MOVIE WERE A DUMB HUNK AND A SMART CREEP – HOW DOES THIS REPRESENT MEN”

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I also wasn’t digging that he was just Stay Puft mk II.

If you are one of these people…well, maybe we could speak directly, civilly, but please leave capslock out of this – and of course, keep in mind that this is a comedy film that attempts to deviate from the norm. But frankly, working in a big city, I come across at least one Rowan daily, so he didn’t really stand out to me. He kind of bored me, to be honest. I would like to add on the aforementioned deviation note, it would be great of the villain wasn’t defeated with a crotch-shot.

 

 

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So cerebral.

Anywhoo, back to Kevin. I’m sure that some people, probably dudes, were miffed that the main dude was dumb eye-candy. Well, you best get used to it, because ladies have been putting up with this for way. too. long. Also you forget that Kevin’s a cerebral graphic artist as well as a model.

Sometimes he gets a little over the top, but I was still surprised by the directions they took with him. With the exception of the possession-angle, I suppose. Like I said, I just wasn’t impressed with Rowan.

Speaking of over-the-top, let’s talk tech! Who doesn’t love cool gadgets? Definitely not this movie! There was so much technobabble – so much unnecessary technobabble – and on top of that, the devices hardly made sense. It would’ve been cool to see where the line would be drawn between phantasmal and corporeal – the ghost and the goo, so to speak. I mean, Patty’s wood-chipper was brutal and all, but what stopped the ghosties from popping back out of the goo-pile? Is the goo just liquid ghost? Do we just become ooze?

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Merchandising! Merchandising!

And then Abby’s punchie-glove-thing just made no sense at all… You just can’t beat proton packs. I know I shouldn’t do this, but you have to give credit to the original on this one: the gadgets were established, and there were rules – and there was continuity with those rules. Sometimes rules suck, but most of the time they help enrich world building.

 

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Holtzmann even looks like animated Egon.

In the end, Ghostbusters did do a great job paying homage to the original(s) (I loved the cameos), but unfortunately lost a lot of definition in the process. Part of me feels that the story may had been better if it were an indirect sequel where the citizens of New York at least acknowledged the previous events – or maybe more direct,  passing of the torch or something while incorporating these new technologies. Maybe then less time would be spent with babble and more time for busting.

Final thought: I enjoyed this movie. I think if you go in with an open mind, you’ll do just fine. Lighten up.

 

 

Finding Dory

Thirteen years ago, a generation was taught when things get tough, just keep swimming. Now we learn of the origin of these sage words – yes, the truth is finally revealed about our favorite forgetful fish. Turns out she just kept swimming.

Dory’s search for her family lands her (joined by Marlin and Nemo) at California’s Marine Life Institute, home of a bunch of new merchandisable characters, namely a grumpy Pacific octopus (sorry, “septopus”) named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neil). With the help of new and old friends, Dory finally finds the answers she’s always been looking for – at least, when she remembers.

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Finding Dory : Hank :: Mad Max: Fury Road : Imperator Furiosa

Amidst the overbearing sentimentality is genuine fun and sweetness – though it’s hard not to see that Finding Dory and Toy Story 2 are pretty much the same movie. In fact, every Pixar film is just the hero’s journey, isn’t it? Well, whatever works, I suppose – it’s not like it’s a bad thing…it just gets a little underwhelming.

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Also I like the little sound Destiny makes when she bumps into her tank.

Despite what could be considered a hindrance, I think the mentioned sweetness pulls through on this one. I mean, sure I also mentioned it’s over-sentimental, but this quality is presented in a manner that is neither annoying nor pandering.  It’s a lovely tale about family, friends, forgiveness, and of course, disability advocacy.

On that last note, I discovered that some audiences took umbrage with the treatment of some certain characters – namely a sea lion named Gerald.

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On the left.

I guess the thought is that though some of the characters were teased for their disabilities, they ultimately proved a greater point – namely Becky the loon – Gerald was a simpleton who was no more than the butt of some jokes. (And surprise surprise people were offended.◔_◔ I only learned about this when I was trying to find a picture of him.)

Personally, he unnerves me. And ultimately, my opinion is as follows: we don’t know Gerald. He could be a vicious baby killer or the sweetest sea critter since those cuddly otters. We also don’t know his relationship with Fluke and Rudder (the other sea lions). Heck, we hardly even know Fluke and Rudder. So what I guess I’m saying is please just calm the frack down.

In summation, Finding Dory is as charming and sentimental as one would expect, so if you’re a fan of Nemo you’ll probably really dig this as well – just be sure to stay after for some extra closure. Personally, I found the preceding short, Piper, to be much more charming – after all, less is more.

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Adorable and gorgeous.

 

 

Big Eyes

I am kicking myself for not seeing this movie sooner. As a self-proclaimed kitsch enthusiast, I’ve always been familiar with the works of Margaret Keane – I even knew that for a time that her husband, Walter, claimed to have painted some of her works. To learn the scope and impact of this pop art movement, however, was beyond my belief. I think that it is important that this story is told, and the execution of said story could not be more apt than through the lens of Tim Burton.

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The color tones and saturation really got to me in this one.

 

22BB31BC00000578-0-image-21_1417127140342Big Eyes steps back from the spectacle and leans on solely on story through character; Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play off of each other seamlessly. Adams’ portrayal of a tortured artist is empathetic and powerful.

When Waltz as Walter Keane starts twisting that knife, you feel it. Each turn makes you sick to your stomach, which makes Margaret’s victory all the more satisfying. And it’s not like he’s a villain from the get-go; you can see these people fall in love, and it makes you wonder if he was truly intending on using her from the beginning, or if inspiration struck and things snowballed from there. (Though, I’m thinking a combination for two.)

Even if you can’t stand her artwork, Big Eyes is an important film. This a story of a woman who struggles in a time where men were meant to be relied upon – a woman who lacks confidence, who is told to not even try because “people don’t like girl art” anyway. To see her rise and fall and finally stand up for her self, it just makes you feel good, you know?

Frankly, this is a story that needs to be seen – it’s just a shame that it received such little lift. Though the focused artwork of the film may be dated, the theme could not be more relevant today.

Warcraft

I’ve dabbled with World of Warcraft – I’m not an expert with the lore, or even half of the jargon – I just like making guys and exploring worlds, occasionally summoning demons to slay enemies. You know, casual stuff.

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Some might say painfully casual.

So when Duncan Jones comes along with a feature film, I get pretty excited: I’m a fan of his work (well, I only saw half of his feature films and that half left a great first impression), and a fan of the source material…until I realize this part of the story takes place well before anything I’m really familiar with, but I’m still up for the ride. So with this in mind, it’s super-hard for me to not have an ounce of bias, or at least understanding, but I really can’t wrap my head around this amount of backlash – well, not entirely anyway.

I’d like to start with the elephant in the room, Garona:

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Portrayed by Paula Patton

Now, Garona is a half-orc – whether she is known to be half-human or half-draenei at this point in the story is neither here nor there. This is what lady orcs look like in this movie:

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This is Draka – she’s a badass.

Painting a lady green and giving her tusks an orc does not make. Even if she is a half-orc, those are some ridiculously strong “other” genes – especially when she looks like this in the game:

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I found a side-by-side. (She pretty much just looks like a normal orc.)

Frankly, even with all the suspension of disbelief within me, I was not convinced this woman was half-orc. Maybe a thicker brow or yellowed, more pronounced teeth would have helped convinced me – considering how great all the other creatures looked, comparatively she was kind of embarrassing (from a purely objective standpoint).

Garona aside, this was a pretty convincing world. I dug the creature effects, the fights, and the costuming was pretty spectacular. However, reflecting on the world-building, I can see how some things are lost in translation.

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Toby Kebbell as Durotan

In some interviews, Jones has compared his adaptation (and it’s reception by some) to the Lord of the Rings films: this is a new world that not everyone will understand or appreciate. The trouble is, Azeroth isn’t black and white: there’s a massive cast of characters to consider, with all sorts of motivations.

So in this film when Glenn Close pops in to tell one of our heroes about the power of “the Light,” this isn’t a metaphor – this is a literal religion that is detrimental to certain factions. For this sort of thing not to be explained, this character’s big moment comes off as hella cheesy. It’s lack of insight like this that makes these characters come off as terribly shallow – though with such a broad cast, it’s hard to focus on personal development.

Regardless of these issues, I think an audience can get itself wrapped up in the world of Warcraft. It’s pure epic fantasy – so if you’re looking for a fun escape, go for it. But if you can’t handle some swords and sorcery, look elsewhere. Hopefully with a sequel we can get more in-depth with some of these folks. Hopefully.

The Girl Who Loved Johnny Depp

OR
How
Fangirling Turns a Much Bigger Problem into a Petty Image Crisis

Disclaimer: Spousal abuse is not cool. I do not nor would I ever endorse or encourage it. I don’t really think I need to state these things, but sometimes I’m pretty facetious. 

Obviously recent, disturbing, events have been on my mind, and I feel that this is the only real outlet for me to express my thoughts, so if you don’t care, whatever, no one’s making you click my links. But for anyone who knows me, it should be pretty clear that I’m a Johnny Depp fan (he’s the icon on my wordpress even) – I have been for over 10 years of my relatively short life. This obsession has ebbed over the years, but I still love seeing his movies (and yes, there are plenty of terrible ones). Either way, that’s a long time for an obsession over anything, let alone someone you’ve never met. Someone who doesn’t even know you exist, for that matter.

When I read that someone I admire and look up to would hurt someone they love, I was pretty upset. Granted, I’ve never really cared about his or any other celebrity’s personal life – I’m just in for the showbiz. (Kevin Spacey knows what’s up.) In fact, the only time I’ve cared was if filming was delayed or anything like that. But this is messed up. I really don’t want to restate the facts – you can find those trending somewhere.

So I’ve always been, or try to be, the type to separate art from creator, especially in the film world. Additionally, there are plenty of creatives whom I admire who I know have done less than favorable things in the past. I mean, it’s not something to be proud of, but oftentimes the art overshadows the person.

But to someone like me (and I know I can’t be alone here) who really hones in on artwork and the artist, where do we draw the line? It’s not something to think about often, because frankly, it’s not a nice thing to think about. Another thing to consider is that characters are far more connectable than the actor/actress, so it’s easier to draw inspiration and admiration from a performance – the obsession over a celebrity is more of a byproduct.

So I guess what it comes down to is if Mr Depp is ever prosecuted and convicted, will I stop seeing his movies? Honestly, it depends if the movie itself seems interesting, and that’s all there is to it. I just don’t want to be crucified for sporting merch. I’m also not going to tear down my posters or burn my dvds. I love movies. I love stories. I love characters. It’s an escape.

 

 

The Witch

After being banished by the church, William (Ralph Ineson) and his family of Puritans are forced to begin a new life on the cusp of the unknown – in this case, a small plot of land by a spooky thicket of woods. After their newborn goes missing, the family slowly turns on eachother with the eldest, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), at the brunt of the misery.

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Sleep, pray, chores.

Rather than focusing on romance and mysticism, this film relies on a slow-building dread and paranoia that is prevalent in New England folklore. Admittedly, I personally found it difficult to empathize with Thomasin’s plight – I mean, it’s the 1600’s and everything’s terrible (plus I don’t think they actually spoke like that). It’s amazing anyone survived, really – but I digress. However, this sort of thing this does not distract from the viewing experience.

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Small children were especially terrible.

 The Witch is beautifully atmospheric; the isolation, terror and desperation is palpable, and the fact that the scares rely more on practical effects makes the feature all the more admirable.

No spoilers here, but I just wanted to note that I enjoyed the twist enough, but I feel that Caleb’s big scene really drove this film home.

Apologies for being so brief, but admittedly, it’s difficult to talk about a movie like this without major spoilers. I will say, if you dig older horror, this is right up your alley: no jumpscares or torture porn, just natural discomfort. Conversely, I felt a little “meh” by the end of it. I mean, I’m glad there wasn’t an anti-ending, but I think I wanted more of a bang.

Perhaps I’m just spoiled.

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Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

 

 

Hail, Caesar!

It’s 1951 and the world of entertainment is on fire: the studio system is falling apart, television is on the rise, and the second Red Scare is running full-tilt. But during these times of great duress, Americans still turn to the silver screen for an escape – dramas, musicals, and of course, epics.

 

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Clooney-meets-Clancy epic.

It’s no secret that Hollywood itself is a hot mess of internal drama, and during a time when actors a literally owned by studios, it is of utmost importance that everything’s up to status-quo. Enter Capital Pictures’ key producer and “fixer,” Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). When Hollywood’s biggest star (George Clooney) goes missing, it’s up to Mannix to step in before the tabloids catch on.

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Tilda Swinton as a pair of twins with rival columns, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Thessaly pictured).

 

Hail, Caesar! is a delightful mix of Lebowski/Burn After Reading hijinks met with the some bizarre meta qualities reminiscent of Barton Fink (not to mention the Fink references in themselves). There is also an underlying solemness to this film, especially considering our hero deals with personal dilemmas of both future and faith. After all, he’s a man who takes his sometimes dubious orders from a faceless voice, but also charmed by a future of nuclear proportions.

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Lady top, fish bottom, sailor’s mouth.

Of course, when things begin to get dour, we lighten up with a water ballet or a musical number – as I mentioned, this was a time of spectacle, so naturally as an audience we get to take part as well.

In all, Hail, Caesar! is a cynical love letter to old Hollywood. It’s a weird sort of folly with socio-eco-idiological ties. It’s masterfully shot, wonderfully designed, and the performances are fantastic (just the exchange between Ralph Fiennes and Alden Ehrenreich is worth it alone).

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that the nature of god is portrayed with a sort of heavy-handed whimsy: we never see their face, but will still blindly follow their orders, no matter how questionable they are. Sometimes things work out – alas, would that it ’twere so simple.

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I’m not even the biggest Tatum fan, but I desperately want this to be a real thing.