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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Burton’

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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Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depps.

Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depps.

“ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS”   My rating: C 

113 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG

Perhaps to truly enjoy Disney’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” just forget there was ever a Rev. Charles Dodgson, a socially awkward mathematician who under the nom de plume Lewis Carroll wrote children’s fantasies bursting with sly satire and fabulous wordplay.

Sly satire and fabulous wordplay are in short supply in this overproduced yet perfunctory sequel to 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland.” They’ve been replaced by unfocused, unmanaged movement. This is a very busy film.

The best way to approach “Looking Glass” is as a two-hour 3-D special effects demonstration reel. With lowered expectations it might not be so bad.

Fans of the Carroll novels will be utterly at sea. Familiar characters drift in and out, but the story cooked up by screenwriter Linda Woolverton is cut from whole cloth and hits hard on issues of female empowerment — a worthy topic, perhaps, but not something on the Rev. Dodgson’s radar.

In the first scene Alice (Mia Wasikowska reprising her role), now a young woman, is the captain of a sailing ship braving a fierce storm and Malay pirates.

Bring on the F/X!

She returns to 1870s England only to discover that her beloved father has died and her impoverished mother (Lindsay Duncan) has agreed to sell the ship to the pea-brained, chauvinistic ex-fiance she spurned in the first movie.

Guided by a butterfly (voiced by the late Alan Rickman in his final role) Alice passes through a mirror into “Underland,”  where a new quest awaits her.

She learns that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is ailing — at death’s door, in fact, mourning the demise of his family years before.

Alice resolves to travel back in time to rewrite history and save her suffering friend. This entails a visit to the citadel occupied by Time personified (Sacha Baron Cohen), where she pilfers a time machine.

Once in the past she not only tries to rectify the Hatter’s domestic situation but discovers the origin of the enmity between the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and her sister, the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter).

At one point the story zaps back to the real world, where Alice has been institutionalized with what her barbaric male doctor calls “a textbook case of female hysteria.” (more…)

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Christophe Waltz, Amy Adams as the Keanes

Christophe Waltz, Amy Adams as the Keanes

“BIG EYES” My rating: B- 

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Big Eyes” Tim Burton takes on the  oddball odyssey of Walter and Margaret Keane, who a half century ago launched an art-world/cultural sensation with cartoonish paintings of children with huge, sad eyes.

Despite being savaged as tasteless kitsch by the critics — the eyes were compared to “big stale jelly beans” — these “Keane Kids” became hot commodities. Fame and fortune followed.  Think of it as a pre-Tomas Kinkade display of bad taste.

Eventually the Keane Kids generated a scandal when it was proven in court that Walter Keane, who claimed to be the artist, was in fact no more than a hack taking credit for his wife’s work.

Burton has two very fine actors in Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams. His recreation of ‘60s San Francisco feels authentic. And the subject matter promises something along the lines of “Ed Wood,” for my money the director’s most heartfelt work.

After all, both films are about “artists” who specialize in…well, not art

But whereas “Ed Wood” was a very funny celebration of a tasteless filmmaker — often cited as the worst director of all time yet obsessed with capturing his questionable vision on celluloid — “Big Eyes” is a more conflicted affair.

(more…)

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