9.30.2016

Mr. Burton's Wacky New Movie for Peculiar People

Tim Burton has had kind of a slump for a few years. While I personally really enjoyed Big Eyes in 2014, it failed to really scream "comeback" for most people, and something stronger was needed to show that the director was headed in the right direction. When Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children was announced, it seemed like a perfect fit for the director and it was even more welcome to not have a white faced Johnny Depp doing his same old schtick. Instead, Burton reunites with Eva Green who was the best part of the disappointing Dark Shadows to tell the story of a headmistress who takes in wayward children with incredible powers (basically, the Tim Burton version of X-Men.)

The beginning of the film finds Asa Butterfield's (Hugo, Ender's Game) character Jake living a humdrum life. When he discovers his Grandfather dying in a field with his eyes stolen (yes you read that right...) everything changes as he desperately seeks for some closure. His therapist (the always solid Allison Janney) encourages him to seek out the children's home his Grandfather told him about when he was growing up. As a teen, Jake accepted the stories to be fairy tales that he hoped were true, but seemed too far fetched to be. Soon he discovers an entrance to the world his Grandfather always talked about and how magical and real it was...as well as the dangers that lurk in destroying their existence.

The film starts off with a ton of promise and a lot of the magic that made Burton's films from the 90's so wonderful. It feels like a true return to form, and you get excited about the world you're being introduced to. Unfortunately, that magic starts wearing thin due to the pacing of the film. After awhile, you've seen enough and you're ready for some of the real conflict to begin. But sadly, once it does the film kinda falls apart. The concept is good, but the execution just gets a bit sloppy from the middle on until the end. Eva Green sparkles in the role of Miss Peregrine, but the movie needed more of her. Ella Purnell, who plays the light as air Emma Bloom is kind of the film's heart and her unique look you can tell must have been a muse for Burton. She fits right into his world and is probably one of the best parts of it. The other kids are decent, but towards the end you're unsure how great their peculiarities really are. Butterfield is serviceable as the newcomer to the clan, but I've always found him to be somewhat of a bland performer....he never truly engages me in a role. Some of the TV spots declare this film as "the magic of Harry Potter meets the action of X-men." I only wish that could actually be accurate because the film needed quite a bit more of both things to make it truly stand out.


So sadly, no Miss Peregrine is not a comeback, but rather is just another jumbled mess from Tim Burton. It had potential to be a little more, but falls short in its rambling middle and ridiculous ending. EMILY RATING: 6/10

9.16.2016

The Bland Witch

Earlier this year the world was delighted with the surprise of a secretly made Cloverfield sequel that actually turned out to be pretty amazing. When it was announced at the San Diego Comic-Con that ANOTHER beloved horror movie was getting a sequel, and that the early reviews for it were all glowing, people's expectations were suddenly sky high for a movie that just a few months ago they had no idea existed. The film in question getting its sequel was the horror classic The Blair Witch Project, a "found footage" film that basically created a million copycats and its own subgenre within horror lore. A sequel did come out for the film back in 2000 but was greeted with poor reviews since it couldn't match the height or originality of its predecessor. Also, a reason The Blair Witch Project was so successful is that its marketing campaign was so brilliant in making people actually question whether or not the film really happened. No one knew if it was a true documentary or a fictional film. For that type of magic, it's hard to duplicate....particularly with a sequel. 17 years later, we all know the first movie is fake, so for a late sequel to have that kind of impact would be difficult. But could The Blair Witch 2016 somehow pull off this feat? Unfortunately for me, the answer was a definite no.

The sequel is set fifteen years after the events of the first film and focuses on the brother of the former lead character Heather. After losing his sister to the mysteries of the woods, he is determined to discover if she is somehow still alive. The problem is, the original Blair Witch changed the game so much, that trying to copy it now just feels so standard. The characters are cardboard cutouts with not one of the leads giving too compelling of performances. The first half of the film is so bland and boring that by the time fun stuff finally starts happening in the final third it just feels like too little, too late. Certain storylines are set up with very little payoff, that overall....while there is fun to be had, I couldn't help but feel pretty disappointed by the time it was over.

Overall, it's hard to make a sequel to one of the defining horror genre films of the 90's when you can't pull the same trick on the audience twice. As someone who has only seen the original film a couple times, perhaps I couldn't appreciate the homages the director intended, but to me, everything just felt so cookie cutter and by the numbers, I was too bored. So perhaps bigger Blair Witch buffs will disagree with my opinion. But, to the film's credit, the final portion of the film is incredibly solid, and watching the first person perspective makes it feel like a cinematic haunted house type experiment. The end was incredibly fun but just couldn't redeem the mediocre beginning and middle. EMILY RATING: 5/10

9.09.2016

Miracle of the Sully

Fall movie season wouldn't be complete without a Tom Hanks oscar baity type role. Enter the movie Sully where he teams up with another oscar caliber director in Clint Eastwood. Sully tells the tale of the aftermath of the "Miracle on the Hudson" where Captain Chesley Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles successfully landed their damaged plane on the Hudson River without any human casualties. Anyone reading this review should be old enough to remember what happened, but none of us know the story behind the scenes, and that's what Sully seeks to tell.

Sully begins when the story we know ends, as Captain Sullenberger is being investigated by insurance agencies who are seeking to know if he did everything he could to prevent having to resort to landing on the Hudson River. They believe that he could have returned to the airport with the plane undamaged instead of destroying it in their crash landing and risking the lives of the passengers. Sully's recollection of the events is told in flashbacks as Eastwood seeks to answer the question of what really happened. It plays out as a weird spiritual sequel to Apollo 13...that's set in interrogation offices and the majority of what is happening is...talking, as the insurance reps try to figure out the real story of what went wrong. It's kind of an odd film to watch because the most interesting part is the flashbacks, yet they don't hold much suspense because we know it turns out okay since Sully is the one remembering them.

The film is anchored by Tom Hanks's performance. The guy is pretty much a pro at this type of role by now, but he gets some nice help from Aaron Eckhart (really nice to see him in a good movie again.) Laura Linney is relegated to the "worried wife on the phone" role and is pretty much wasted here. Everyone else is pretty two dimensional which makes the ending not quite as earned as it wants to be. It feels way too tidy and left the film off on a note that just seemed too hero worshippy to me. I would have liked the film to have been a little more complex, with more moral gray to be explored. But that wasn't really the movie Eastwood wanted to make. EMILY RATING: 7/10

9.02.2016

The Light Between Morgans

The summer movie season has come to an end and different movie options aside from blockbusters are now opening up. This weekend the two releases Morgan and The Light Between Oceans couldn't be more different. One is a sci-fi, horror-thriller with the son of Ridley Scott making his directorial debut, while the other is an adaptation of a popular romantic drama. I was able to see both during the last two weeks, so let's start with my thoughts on Morgan.

Morgan is all about the titular character (played with finesse by The Witch's Anya Taylor-Joy,) a "woman" who was created by scientists. She is the first successful version of artificial life....until she becomes not so successful after attacking of one of the members of the research team. Enter a risk management member of the corporate team (Kate Mara) to decide whether or not project Morgan should be terminated. We'll leave the plot at that because it's best if there's a way the movie can surprise you with the few tricks up its sleeve that it has.

Paul Giamatti arrives midway through the film and his scene with Taylor-Joy is absolutely the highlight of the film. So much tension is built that I was so excited to see what came after this point...but unfortunately, this was where the film kinda fell back on the thriller genre formula instead of kicking the horror up a notch. Really that's the problem with the film is that it's caught between too many genres. As a fan of horror, I kind of wanted this to be more on the side of Alien...where Morgan is a silent, relentless stalker...but the way it plays out, they don't really give you much time to revel in her destruction. Still though, even though the beats became a little familiar in the second half, they were still executed with a lot of fun. Plus, I'm excited to see were Luke Scott goes from here. His freshman effort was decent enough and certainly entertaining. EMILY RATING: 7/10

The first 15 or 20 minutes of The Light Between Oceans might as well have been called "Beautiful People in Love." Not that there's anything wrong with that...but there didn't seem to be a lot of depth to this film and it made me wonder why two Oscar-caliber actors signed on for this. And then the drama hit. BIG TIME. And that's where things got interesting. The Light Between Oceans is all about a married couple (Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander) who find a baby and a dead man in a boat. Having had two miscarriages, Isabel begs her husband not to report what they found and just to raise the child as their own. Her husband Tom reluctantly agrees but soon finds he can't live with the guilt when he discovers the baby's mother is still alive (Rachel Weisz.)

Once The Light Between Oceans got rolling, I really really liked it. All the drama in the second half made me appreciate the lighthearted opener that I didn't care for at the beginning. The performances here are fantastic, and the message at its core is pretty heartwarming. The ending could have perhaps been more solid and memorable (it's a little understated and cheesy at the same time), but it's a minor complaint. I mentioned earlier as more of a cheeky comment that the movie is basically two pretty people falling love...well I can't deny that makes the movie all the more beautiful to look at combined with the gorgeous cinematography and lovely score....so it definitely ain't a bad thing when all is said and done. EMILY RATING: 8/10