Home Away From Home

This latest book adaption is great fun and a classic Tim Burton piece. I had wanted to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children  by Ransom Riggs since I hear of it. I read the first two chapters and then promptly lost it; I was so sad! So I am unable to tell you how close it is to the book. But that’s fine because I love this whimsical film in its own right.

After Jake’s grandfather dies, he discovers clues to a mystery that spans space and time. Following an address from a post card sent to his grandfather, Jake finds Miss Peregrine and her Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, he also learns about the dark side of being peculiar. His friends are trapped in a time loop to keep them safe from the Hallows, a malicious enemy who kills peculiars for everlasting humanity. Jake is the key to their survival but can he make the sacrifices required of him?1280_miss_peregrines_home_for_peculiar_children_eva_green

The story follows the children with the titular Peregrine taking a back seat to their story. This is a coming of age tale about a group of children who never age. Asa Butterfield manages to make Jake a real person (so much more than he ever did for Ender but that’s another thing entirely). Ella Purnell with gorgeous Targaryen hair leads the group with love and respect as best an older sister good. But this doesn’t mean the adults don’t make their mark. Eva Green, Samuel Jackson, Rupert Everett, Judi Dench, Allison Janey and Terence Stamp all add to the world with character with characters as varied and unusual as the children. In fact, I have decided that Jackson does his best work as a villain.

The film is classic Burton. Dark but funny. Serious but sweet. HIs as his signature style wraps around the peculiar children and their world. His visual palate is perfect partner for the world based on trick and creepy photography. The films deliver exactly what I had imagined from reading the two chapters of the book.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is classic Burton and deserves a spot in your DVD collection. It’s a fantastical story that will be fun to relive over and over.

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Kingsmen

Kingsmen: The Secret Service is hands down one of the best movies of the year. Colin Firth leads a top notch cast in this humorous look at the spy world directed by Matthew Vaugh (X-Men: First

KSS_JB_D11_01354 - (From left) Harry (Colin Firth), Eggsy (Taron Egerton), Merlin (Mark Strong), Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and Percival (Alastair Macintosh) display varying reactions to an extraordinary event at the Kingsmen training facility.

Class).

Harry sees the potential in Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, an inner city kids whose mom is stuck in the mob life. When Eggy calls in a favor from the Kingsmen, Harry takes Eggsy under his wing and trains him for a spot in the elite service. Eggsy learns fighting skills, espionage techniques, and most importantly, how to be a true gentleman. All of Eggsy’s new acquired skills are put to the test when an eccentric millionaire tries to take over the world.

Kingsman combines humor and action, making it more than just a spy spoof. With subtle mocking of society and our depended on technology, Kingsmen looks at the ways of older generations and blends them with aspects of these latest generation to create a human ideal. Though I make it sound like it, the movie isn’t preachy; its tongue in cheek and full of laughter. Witty and smart, here more than just slap stick and potty humor (yes, there is some of that). At the end of the film, you are pleased to have passed the time with these characters and anxious to watch it again.

 

 

Maggie

08-maggie.w750.h560.2xThis zombie drama starring, Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is truly as good as all the hype. Focusing on family and the psychological aspects of the change, Maggie is a suspenseful thriller instead of a gory horror movie.

On a farm in the Midwest, Wade (Schwarzenegger) must deal the fact that his run -way daughter has been bitten by a zombie. Medical science has been studying the phenomenon and has no answers, just quarantine. Maggie, the titular daughter, must deal with a slow transition into a monster. With a father who loves her and a step-mother who is afraid of her, she must deal with more than just family life; she must deal with becoming undead.

Maggie is a realistic look at the zombie apocalypse. No major event happens. No half decaying bodies are running around. Instead, it focuses on how a family deals with disease and the inevitable death of a cherished member. It is a metaphor of an aging world cloaked in zombie trappings. Scaring you more by your mind than by your eyes, Maggie is the most subtle of zombie films. My friend was freaked out by the movie because of how real it was; she said several times “They are showing it as if it can actually happen.”  That scares me more than other zombie movie I’ve ever seen.

 

Child 44

The movie focuses less a murder mystery that it does on the state of life in the Soviet Union doting that the 1950’s.  Don’t expect a taunt crime thriller; instead, be prepared for lingering despair,

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hope in humanity, and malleable relationships.

Leo becomes a hero in the Russian secret police.  Promoted quickly, he rubs elbows with the higher ups. But when a longtime friend comes to him about the possible murder of his child, he becomes a liability to his superiors. When his wife is set up as a traitor, Leo is demoted but doesn’t give up on finding out who perpetrated the heinous crime.

Child 44 is slow. Little attention is paid to the mur-I mean accidents that happen to these children. Instead we see Leo’s life unfurl,  beginning with his heroism followed by his  inevitable down fall  and setting forth on his noble quest. If you were unaware of how dark Russia was during this time, then you will be surprised about how bad it was for anyone under the regime. Hardy gives an excellent performance (as always) easily portraying the irony that his character suffers from- his ladder to the top is also his downfall. Charge with emotional and driven by character development, Child 44 is not a who-done-it, but a picture of a world that was real not that long ago.

 

Dark Places

Based on the hands down best book by Gillian Flynn, Dark Places follows real human beings and the dark places inside them.

Dark-Places-Movie-2015-starring-Charlize-Theron-and-Nicholas-HoultLibby survived the massacre of her family when she was young. The only family member besides her to make it out alive is her brother who has been convicted of killing her mother and sisters. Libby hasn’t adapted well to post-tragedy life and has coast on a trust fund provided by a public with big hearts. But the donations start drying up and her book isn’t making any money, so she desperately accepts the offer to speak at a local “Murder Club.” The group meets to discuss murder cases, solve the unsolved and fact checking the solved ones. When they suggest her brother Ben is innocent, she can’t emotionally handle it but the promise of money to research what really happened is too good to pass up. Switching between the present and that her family was murdered, Libby and the audience find out what really happened that night.

The movie is better than Gone Girl because the script and story are stronger. Instead of straight up psychos (this does not disclose any psychos in this move), the story centers on real people and the murid of ways our psyche deals with the hurts in our lives. From lies to love to betrayal to sacrifice, the movie runs the gambit of human emotions and what we each see as the injuries in our lives. Backed by powerful performances by Charlize  Theron, Christina Hendricks, and Drea de Matteo, Dark Places is an excellent film.

The Insurgents Go Factionless

It is always hard to be objective when a literary story is adapted for the big screen. Fans long for certain scenes or are unhappy with certain casting and these opinions can skew a movie. Insurgent is just the next in a long line of adaptations that leave book readers wanting a little more.

download (1)The second entry in the Divergent trilogy comes to life with great force and action. Tris and the other refugees have fled Dauntless and have taken shelter in neighboring factions. Tris, Four and Peter take respite in Amity but peace does not last long as Eric sniffs the fugitives out. The two must meet up with their friends hiding in Candor, but along the way they cross path with the factionless and find out the hidden truth about their leader. Tris must keep fighting in order to cross paths with Jeannie and take her out.

As a book reader, (SPOILERS) there are aspects from the books that I really miss. I feel like these cuts impact the story in negative ways. Viewers do not get the truth about Amity and what is really going on there. Amity seems to be a central theme of reduced material. In fact, in the books, Tris’ defining moment as Amity is when she keeps Tori from killing Jeannie; a more poignant reaction that=n movie portrays.

Removing myself from the material, it is easy to see how this movie would entertain its core audience. The action is candor-insurgentcontinuous and keeps viewers on their toes. But critically, the story fails at real emotion. Tris’ emotions are presented in stereotypical scenes and are very one dimensional. By focusing solely on the action, the character development falls flat.

I also missed Ellie Goulding’s music and vocals. Goulding’s music was used as Tris’ inner dialogue in Divergent and made the emotional aspects of the scenes multidimensional. It truly added a lot to the first movie. Instead, the music is insipid and uninspired. (Forgive my Ellie Goulding bias those that know me.)

Insurgent is thrilling and fun for audience though book fans may be disappointed. While these are not the Hunger Games, these Factions are just as dangerous.

Fifty Shades of Hell No

It is a difficult task to write about 50 Shades of Grey with any objectivity. I am not a fan of the books (I thought the first was horribly written and stopped there), and I have some issues with the content (no, not the sex). But it is fair to say that the movie is better written than the book. That does not mean the movie is good (it’s horrible), but at least it is better than the book.

Since this started as a Twilight fan fiction, you know the plot already. Virginal girl in Washington falls for a strange man who is way out of her league. He takes a strange attraction too her and claims he’s no good for her because of his secret. But instead of being a vampire, he’s a sadist with a “Red Room of Pain.” He takes her through sexual discovery by dominating her in every way. It’s a love story.

The movie thankful does not feature narration by Anastasia “Ana” Steele. Instead, the movie keeps the trite dialogue while more fluidly transitioning from one scene to another. “Goddess” is used only one time, and the “Oh My God”s are kept at a minimum. But there is no way to hide the Twilight parallels in almost every scene. I can just see E.L. James’ lawyer going over the content with a fine tip comb. “O.K., the rescue from the bicycle is different enough from the Tyler’s car but José has to be a different minority.” I would rather have watched Twilight.

fifty-shades-of-grey-movieDakota Johnson makes a good Bella-excuse me-Ana, but Jamie Dornan is horribly miscast as the titular Grey. He is good-looking and has a nice body, but he is not a good fit for the character. The reasons are two-fold. The first is that he looks like a young Colin Firth and that doesn’t go with the Christian Grey persona at all; it’s actually kind of terrifying to think of Firth in this role. The second is that his accent is terrible. If he had a voice acting coach, no other actor needs to hire them. The only good thing about Dornan being in it is that means Charlie Hunnam got out (Thank Goddess!).

There is one good thing about the film: it manages to give Ana more power than she did in the book. My friends tell me everything happened the same way in the book, but the book was so poorly written that it was hard to interpret any nuisances. When Ana goes to the conference room to negotiate the contract in the film, she is confident and forth coming. The movie makes it more apparent there is more of a balance between the two (only ever so slightly though).

While its claim to fame is nudity and sex, it’s the movie’s ability to transcend the book that is its positive aspect. The movie is truly horrible but it’s better than its book counterpart. That is a rare success for any movie.

Pick Up The Drop

Dennis Lehane is a master story teller and his genius as an author has not gone unnoticed by Hollywood. Classics such as Mystic River and Shutter Island have been adapted to the big screen by prominent directors. Lehane has lent his talents to the small screen as well as working on The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. Now, on Blu-ray and DVD, one of his short stories comes to.

The Drop is based on the short story “Animal Rescue” which Lehane expanded it into a novel and adapted it as a feature film. Bob (Tom Hardy) is a quiet bartender whose bar has been taken over by organized crime. The bar is used as a “drop” point, a place where dirty money is held until it can be picked up. When the bar is robbed, Bob and his boss have to deal with the repercussions and angry mobsters. Meanwhile, Bob finds a beaten pit bull in a trash can and decides to adopt it. But trouble ensues after the dog’s original owner comes back wanting the dog. Bob must deal with the pressure on both his personal and professional life.THE-DROP-TOM-HARDY_0

The tale is classic Lehane. Viewers become entangled with characters and react emotionally to them. Viewers feel sympathy for Hardy as Bob and his life begins to unravel. Then, suddenly, the whole tale is flipped on its side and viewers see a new side of the characters, giving them more depth and realism. This keeps the plot from being just another mob movie.

Lehane has been lucky with the casting and directing of his adaptations. When in the skilled hands of Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorsese, these tales come to life in vivid detail. The Drop features unknown Michaël R. Roskam, a more subtle director, who pairs well with the simple Bob. But, what truly makes the film stand out is the cast.

Lehane’s characters are heart breaking, real, and moving when handled by great actors. Shutter Island would have been a wreck if Leonardo DiCaprio had not handled the intricacies of the main character with ease, and the same can be said here. At first, it seems like James Gandolfini gives the strongest performance. He is great as the cranky Marv who wishes his life has been different. Hardy’s understated performance seems very low key for him but once Lehane twists the plot viewers truly see the work Hardy has done with the character. The intensity is balanced with an everyman vibe and Hardy shines. A lesser actor could not have pulled off the performance.

The Drop is a carefully woven tale that proves why Dennis Lehane is a master at his craft. The film is also a wonderful testament to the late James Gandolfini. Pick up this twist on Mobster movies today.

Holiday Big Openers

 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In this final installment of The Hobbit adaptation, the story is stretched way beyond the point of APphoto_Film Review The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armiesentertaining. Peter Jackson uses material from the various appendices by J.R.R. Tolkien himself  to pad the story and just plain makes stuff up.

Laketown must deal with the deadly dragon that was released in the second movie. This hassle is taken of quickly and the story moves on to the fight over the dragon’s treasure. The Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans each want a piece of the treasures held within the Lonely Mountain But the Dwarves, Human, and Elves have to band together to defeat the Orcs and save the legacy of their races.

The problem with this movie is that it is too long. The story suffers at the expense of expanding for three movies.  The entirety of The Hobbit could have easily been two movies while still expanding on Tolkien’s supplemtantal material.

Like the two before it, the movie looks good.  The effects are gorgeous and the make-up is effective. This go-around I did notice something: the two Dwarves we are supposed to empathize with the most  are the two that look the most human.  Quality actors help round out characters but even they can’t smooth over dodgy bits of exposition.

Honestly, I wanted more or the dragon and less of the endless battles. Hell, I just wanted the damn movie to be over.

Into The Woods

Into the Woods follows several well-known fairy tale characters as they try to obtain their greatestdepp-wolf1 wishes. It seems that to have each wish granted, they must enter the spooky woods that surround their homes. The characters find that they help each other achieve their dreams, but then, too late, they learn their wishes were not what they were cut out to be.

Unfortunately, the movie adaption of the Broadway show does not translate well. The story rambles on and changes focus. It becomes preachy and tries too hard to have a moral.  There were some interesting points with the highlight being Johnny’s Depp short appearance as The Wolf. This was the best musical sequence in the whole film.

The casting is the second issue.  James Corden and Emily Blunt are passable but Chris Pine can’t sing even though he’s great at being a charming jerk.  I also don’t understand why everyone loves Anna Kendrick so much, and she does not ever embody Cinderella for me. It seems like the casting was looking for big names instead of talent. But that’s not to say there isn’t some talent there. Meryl Streep was fantastic as was Lilla Crawford who played Red Riding Hood.

I’ll admit it looks good. Director Rob Marshall always manages to make his films look like the worlds they are set whether it is a Cook County Prison, pirate infested jungles, or creepy fairy tale woods.  Marshall does well with what he has, but the biggest issue is that he wasn’t given great material and actors to work with.