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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel L. Jackson’

Eva Green

Eva Green

“MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN”  My rating: C 

127 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

Filmmaker Tim Burton’s latest is pretty much par for the course: Two hours of great art direction in search of a movie.

This adaptation of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” the first entry in the popular young adult series by novelist Ransom Riggs, might be classified as a goth version of the X-Men foundation story: Shunned children with supernatural powers are sheltered and trained in a special facility.

The main difference is that this story unfolds in semi-creepy Victorian circumstances that are right up Burton’s visual alley.

The film looks terrific — so dark and weird that even sunlit afternoons seem gloomy.

It’s got the ever-watchable Eva Green as the titular Miss Peregrine, a sort of witchy version of Mary Poppins who can transform herself into a falcon, and Terence Stamp as the occultist grandfather whose secrets launch the story.

What it hasn’t got is any sense of drama, forward motion or a central character interesting enough to warrant our attention.

Young Jake (Asa Butterfield) is a moderately miserable Florida teen (his clueless parents are portrayed by Chris O’Dowd and Kim Dickens, both wasted) who witnesses the death of his beloved grandfather under mysterious and alarming circumstances.

The child psychologist (Allison Janney) who subsequently treats the traumatized teen suggests that Jake go to Wales to confront the reality of Grandpa’s wild tales of the “peculiar children” who were his boyhood friends. Once Jake sees that it was all in the old man’s head, says the shrink, everything will be fine.

Or not.

Jake discovers that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a rotting shell, flattened by a German bomb back in 1943. And then, magically, he finds himself transported back to the day of the disaster.

Not only is the school restored to its former gingerbread grandeur, but Jake meets Miss Peregrine and her oddly talented wards. Like the lighter-than-air girl (Ella Purnell) who must wear leaden boots lest she float away. Or the teen (Lauren McCrostie) who can start fires with her fingertips. (more…)

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Teyonah Parris (second from left) as Lysistrata

“CHI-RAQ” My rating: B

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In recent years even Spike Lee’s biggest fans may have wondered if the creator of “Do the Right Thing” was circling the drain of irrelevancy.

Worry no more. Lee — with an assist from the University of Kansas’ Kevin Willmott and the long-dead playwright Aristophanes — has come roaring back with “Chi-Raq,” a passionate indictment of black-on-black urban violence.

It’s a swing-for-the-bleachers effort that is by turns furious, raunchy, sad, silly and savage.

This mashup of rap concert, poetry reading (the bulk of the dialogue is in rhyming verse) and burlesque sometimes slips into preachiness or heavy-handed satire, but even the shortcomings become part of the film’s overall strength.

“Chi-Raq” begins with titles informing us that in recent years there have been more gun deaths among the citizens of the Windy City than among our special forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then Nick Cannon’s furious rap “Pray 4 My City” kicks in as a sort of profane overture: “Y’all mad cause I don’t call it Chicago / I don’t live in no *** Chicago / Boy, I live in Chi-Raq.”

The city’s South Side is torn between two gangs, led by the preening, cocksure Chi-Raq (Cannon) and the one-eyed, comically goofy Cyclops (Wesley Snipes).

When a little girl dies in a gang crossfire, Chi-Raq’s girlfriend, Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris of “Dear White People”), is so moved by the sorrow and anger of the girl’s mother (Jennifer Hudson) that she organizes the women of both gangs into a movement.

They will deny their men all sexual favors until the guns are put away and violence renounced. Pretty soon their message is taken up by women all over the world. Hookers stop hooking. Porn stars stop porning.

A man can’t get no relief. (more…)

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Colin Firth...the calm eye of the storm

Colin Firth…the calm eye of the storm

“THE KINGSMAN”  My rating: B- 

129 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE”

Tone is the secret sauce of cinema.

A film can have an interesting plot, good acting, great production values…but if the tone is off the whole thing sits queasily on the stomach like a cheap Mexican dinner.

Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman” has a lot going for it.  It’s a wicked spoof of Bondish spy films with tons of over-the-top action.  At its center it has a nifty mentor-student relationship.  And in Colin Firth and newcomer Taron Egerton it has a couple of hugely charismatic leading men.

And yet the tone is, well, iffy.

Borrowing the arched-eyebrow approach of Patrick Macnee’s John Steed from the old “Avengers” TV show, Firth plays Harry Hart, aka Galahad, a member of a super secret agency known as the Kingsmen.

Operating out of a men’s clothing shop in London (which explains why its agents are so nattily dressed with pinstriped suits, tortoise-shell glasses and deadly umbrellas), the Kingsmen were formed decades ago by a cabal of obscenely rich men who thought international security too important to be left in the hands of governments and politicians.

The story — adapted by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from the comic Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons — has two main components.

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cap 3“CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER” My rating: C+ (Opening wide)

136 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There are few moments early in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” that suggest what the film might have been.

Fans of the Marvel Universe will recall that at the end of 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the Cap (Chris Evans) was thawed out after a half-century of suspended animation and was recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his super-secret spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

Put yourself in the Captain’s shoes. You grew up in the 1930s a 98-pound weakling. You were transformed into a muscled hunk of extraordinary power by some government-brewed elixir. You fought the Nazis in World War II.

And now you’re in 2014. Overnight you went from a world where “high tech” meant an AM radio to one of cell phones and the worldwide web. Of course, you must contend with more than just technical advancements. You’re bombarded by modern morals and sensibilities that run counter to your squeaky-clean upbringing.

When you were frozen the word “teenager” didn’t exist. Now you’re in a civilization that caters to teens as the most desirable demographic (this movie being Exhibit A).

Credit Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay for this much at least: It tries to say something about the dislocation that good-guy Cap – aka Steve Rogers – feels, to explore the angst of a man from a genteel past trapped in a crass present.

That’s a movie I would have enjoyed.

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