Good week to all! I hope these reviews find you well and rested because autumn seems to be dragging its damn feet in arriving. This week, we’ve got the new Burton film, a big-budget family animation, and the best film released to a wider European audience this week. Let’s get started...
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Whenever Tim Burton released a film back in the Nineties and Noughties, it was something to be reckoned with among critics and audience…even his egregious Planet of the Apes remake was a box office hit. But then he released his take on TV cult classic Dark Shadows in 2012 and it seems that his appeal began to wane. Do you remember ‘Big Eyes’ (2014)? Yeah, I don’t either. His latest film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, is a film adaptation of a popular young adult novel series of the same name. It is a treat for the eyes and you know it cost a pretty penny. However, this sometimes fun, sometimes painfully-odd film seems to lose much of the series’ wonder in the transition from page to celluloid. The film tells the story of Jake (Asa Butterfield) and his father (Chris O’Dowd) who travel from Florida to a tiny Welsh village in the hope of finding closure after the suspicious death of Jake’s grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp). It’s there that Jake discovers Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and her band of 11 peculiar kids. It turns out that Miss Peregrine holds her life (and those in her keep) in a constant time loop, in which the clock is reset every…single…day! The imagery Burton serves us is haunting and engaging, as are the characters acting in this piece. But, like anyone who is familiar with Burton’s work, just because it’s pretty and fascinating to watch does not mean we can equate it to a great film. A budding romance starts to blossom between Jake and his love interest Emma (Ella Purnell), although it is cast a sensual light that is at odds with the rest of the film. The Blackpool docks scene also fails to impress, but, by that time, you feel something for the cast of characters. Let’s put it mildly… Burton’s latest is a tad too much of a good thing. You pack in so much fantasy, action, thrills, chills, and history into a single movie that sometimes you forget that you’re supposed to relax and enjoy it. ###
Storks. I have a tendency to avoid the screenings and premieres of kids’ movies because they often end up making me sit there fighting against ‘the land of nod’. Released by the Warner Brothers, the plot unfolds as such: forced to adapt to a changing economy, storks have apparently stepped up the game from delivering babies to carrying packages for Amazon-like, CornerStore.com. When low-level worker stork Junior (Andy Samberg) is promoted to management, the first task assigned to him by his feathery CEO is to fire the oddball human (Katie Crown), who is hidden in the back after a slew of snafus. Enter: a silly scheme, some ridiculous slapstick, songs or gags that make you go ‘WTF?’ and a smorgasbord of talent like Jennifer Aniston, Kelsey Grammar, and Modern Family’s Ty Burrell and you get…well, absolutely nothing. Going for easy-breezy, lame comedy bits and syrupy sentiments against a backdrop of flashing lights, colours and trippy non-stop movements, makes everything like an Electric Daisy Carnival rave for kids. Is this really the best we can do for this new generation? This time around, Storks is really not even an attempt to be slightly marketable for parents at all. At least Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks usually strive for a bit of that. It’s sad really because though the concept is obviously for the younger crowd, something could have been more creatively-driven here. After all, it’s parents and sitters and loved ones who have to take the little ones to see the flick. Double sigh. ##
Lastly today—the great stuff. From The Commitments (1991) to Once (2006) to this latest music-driven film, I have long felt that the Irish have a knack for telling great stories, using music and family-life themes that hit the nail on the head. I can’t sing enough praises this week about Sing Street (2016), the latest coming-of-age film set in the Eighties that takes humour, funky beats and a simple story to easy heights. Here, again, is Irish director John Carney, the man who helmed the aforementioned hit Once, but this time he’s getting funkier and not so sappy. Telling the rite-of-passage story of Dublin teen Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), Carney throws us into the mid-Eighties with Ireland in the midst of economic hardship. Conor’s family has been forced to make financial sacrifices, so when he has to switch schools, all things must change. The school is called Synge Street (a real Dublin school that Carney actually went to, though the end credits assure that the school he attended is nothing like the one portrayed in the film!), where the headmaster is an abusive administrator, the lunchroom is a messy cage, and few students seem to be really learning anything at all. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (played by Transformer’s Jack Reynor), marks an essential role in his growth and Conor fights his oppressive surroundings using music, his brother’s words and a desire to fit in but stay real at the same time. When he lies his way into a garage band called Sing Street, things start to roll, comedically and aesthetically. Enter in the slightly older and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who becomes the muse and video vixen as the band takes off. With this film, Carney has given us a much more stylised update to his filming process than with Once, and it is testament to the director’s style and to his people. A fantastically put together piece of entertainment—you will be happy when you leave the cinema! ####