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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Tim Burton at His Quirky Best
Master of everything weird and wonderful, Tim Burton, returns to the big screen with a typically and delightfully bizarre story of extraordinary children and menacing monsters in Miss Peregrines' Home for Peculiar Children. Based on a popular book series of the same name, the director's unique visual style and playful sense of morbidity is present throughout the story and whilst there are a few hiccups in the film, it's still engaging and engaging enough to look past the cracks.
The story follows Jake Portman (Butterfield) whose close relationship to his grandfather, Abraham (Stamp), saw the young spend his days and nights listening to his grandfather's stories about a home for children with unique abilities called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children where he spent most of his adolescence.
His grandfather's mind has been slipping lately, though, and Jake can't help but wonder whether any of the stories he was ever told were true or if they were just a way for him to deal with his traumas of the war. Things soon take a turn for the strange when Jake witnesses his grandfather dying at the hands of a monster no one else can see and in order to get to the bottom of the mystery - and at the same time acquire some much-needed closure - Jake decides to travel to Wales where supposedly one Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine (the wonderful Eva Green) and her group of peculiar children once lived.
Known for his distinctive storytelling voice, Tim Burton takes his time in building the world surrounding the story and its unusual group of characters, whose magical powers and irreplaceable bond serve as the centrepiece of the film. Offering plenty of atmosphere and moments of visual awe along the way, it takes a while before any real action takes place and the villains - particularly Samuel L. Jackson as the malevolent monster named Barron who feeds his powers by eating the eyes of his victims – are introduced. While some might find the story's prolonged pace a little testy, the story is never boring with the writing ensuring that the carefully laid out introductions of Miss. Peregrine - wonderfully captured by the always magnificent Eva Green - and her unique group of children, is kept captivating and stimulating all the same.
Unfortunately, where the story scores a little low is on the action front which at times feels a little unimaginative, lacking the urgency and the visual flair of the film's quieter moments. Performance wise, Butterfield proves to be a reliable young lead, but the movie belongs to Ella Purnell who plays Emma Bloom; a strangely beautiful teenage girl who has to wear heavy iron shoes in order not to float away. Her peculiarity and overall innocence about the world surrounding her offers plenty of touching moments.
Quirky, unusual and delightfully creepy, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a fun watch and, undoubtedly, a wonderful addition to Burton's already magnificent repertoire.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Returning to the world of wizards and all things magic, J.K Rowling’s screenwriting debut in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has produced mixed results. Following the massive and the enduring success of the Harry Potter film franchise, the story is both magical and visually arresting. However, although definitely entertaining, the fun factor seems to have been squeezed out of the proceedings.
The plot follows ‘magizoologist’, Newt (Redmayne), who travels the world in search of magical animals in order to learn more about their powers. During his travels to New York City in 1926, Newt ends up losing his magical suitcase – a portable zoo of sorts which accidentally finds itself in the hands of an aspiring baker, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) – setting off a chain of chaos.
The incident soon attracts the attention of Tina Goldstein (Waterston); a federal agent working for the Magical Congress of the United States of America who, after some persuading, reluctantly joins our hero on his quest along with her mind-reading sister, Queenie (Sudol).
Working from an original screenplay penned by J.K Rowling herself and directed by David Yates – filmmaker who helmed previous Harry Potter films – it would be easy to assume Fantastic Beasts to be nothing more than a blatant cash-grab which hopes to profit from long-time Harry Potter fans. However, although not as developed or as absorbing as one might have hoped, Fantastic Beasts proves to be a worthy addition to the fantasy arena which delivers an enchanting premise of eccentricity and magic.
Set seventy years before a boy named Harry Potter first walked the halls of Hogwarths, the film benefits from a degree of creative freedom to expand on its premise, introducing new stories, characters and an array of magical beasts along the way. However, there seems to be too much going on and the film struggles to keep up with the sheer amount of characters and sub-plots, failing to offer any substantial back stories or weight support them. The performances are relatively likable, with Redmayne embracing Newt’s love for magic with an gawky energy, though the rest of the cast – including Collin Farrell and Jon Voight - fail to make a similar impact.
Fantastic Beasts is an entertaining piece of cinema which will more than likely please die-hard fans that have been waiting to return to the world of wizards and magic. However, it’s not exactly what you might call an exciting movie or even a fully developed one; while it has sown the seeds for the films to come, as a standalone piece, it fails to really wow.