Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

September 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Big Eyes”)
Written by: Jane Goldman (“X-Men: First Class”)

Filmmaker Tim Burton has made an entire career out of being “peculiar.” Even when its putting his own spin on an established franchise, Burton’s gothic, eccentric stamp (at least stylistically) is an omnipresent factor in most of his films. Even when making poor films, Burton is hired to be Burton and is rarely a director for hire. Perhaps that’s why it is so surprising that his new film, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” has zero identity.

After the loss of his grandfather, Jake (Asa Butterfield) decides to investigate a place that he has only heard about and seen in pictures. As a home for kids with certain “peculiarities,” Jake explores the vast land of special powered children and their leader, Miss Peregrine (Eva Green). He finds, however, that as special as these children are, danger within them also lies ahead.

For having a decent cast of well known actors, nobody other than Green really makes a mark. Butterfield looks and feels too old to be convincing as the age of the character he is playing, Samuel L. Jackson hams it up as the main villain and Ella Purnell, while certainly looking the part, is bland. It isn’t entirely the fault of the actors, as the script is generic and boring.

“Miss Peregrine’s” feels like an odd hodgepodge of popular young adult series, and sort of meanders for its way too long run time. It flirts with some interesting concepts, and “powers,” so to speak, but at the end of the day, nothing happening on screen is interesting in anyway. The dialogue is dull and stilted and, narratively, the film goes nowhere.

There’s a scene at a boardwalk that is actually one of the very few, but very fleeting bright moments of the film. Bringing out some odd skeleton characters for a big battle, there is at least something intriguing happening on the screen that feels at least mildly entertaining. It is here, and only here, that the film actually feels like a Tim Burton movie.

When watching the film, Burton fans will be looking for his fingerprints, but will find nothing. In fact, it is the film that bares the least of his characteristics than any of his career. There is nothing special, let alone exceptional about any of it, and it truly feels like it could have been directed by anyone else. His artistic vision is unquestionably unique, but for Burton to be successful, his movies need to match his vision with a sense of whimsy. This film, however, is dead on arrival. The most peculiar thing about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is how soulless it really is.

Ep. 88 – Sully, Transpecos, and the various delights of cable TV programming

September 11, 2016 by  
Filed under Podcast

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This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review Sully, Transpecos, talk about watching movies they own on TV, what cable networks can get away with saying, and brainstorm an idea for a podcast covering some as-yet-undetermined terrible new Netflix sitcom.

[00:00-30:11] Intro/cable TV talk

[30:11-50:51] Review – Sully

[50:51-1:00:03] Transpecos

[1:00:03-1:08:11] Wrap up/tease

Click here to download the episode!

Big Eyes

December 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Christoph Waltz, Amy Adams, Danny Huston
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Ed Wood,” “Alice in Wonderland”)
Written by: Scott Alexander (“Ed Wood”) and Larry Karaszewski (“Ed Wood”)

A return to form effort from wayward director (and Johnny Depp enabler) Tim Burton might elicit more praise on the surface than it deserves when you really dig in strictly because of how long we’ve had to wait for something that wasn’t terrible. “Big Eyes” may, in fact, fit that description, but for now, bask in the refreshment a Burton movie with style and focus—and without gothic weirdness or Depp in a weird hat or even former flame Helena Bonham Carter—brings to the table.

As the film opens, Margaret (Amy Adams) flees an abusive husband and an “Edward Scissorhands”-esque treeless suburb with her daughter Jane (Delaney Raye at first, aging to Madeleine Arthur) in tow. Settling down in 1950s/1960s San Francisco, Margaret works on her artwork, using Jane as a model for a series of paintings featuring big-eyed children. After meeting and marrying fellow artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), Walter begins taking credit for Margaret’s work on the “big eyes” paintings, using his innate showmanship to turn the artwork into a kitschy sensation. As tensions escalate between the sidelined Margaret and the increasingly disjointed Walter, Margaret begins to regret the trap she helped build for herself and her art, looking for a way to escape.

For better or worse, the film belongs to Christoph Waltz and his charming-turned-dangerous performance as Walter. He owns every scene he’s in, at times leaving Amy Adams—the story’s protagonist—in the dust in her own story. Waltz as Walter becomes such a commanding presence in the film, you can hardly blame Burton, doing his best work since “Ed Wood,” for turning the film over to this convincing weirdo. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Burton re-teamed on “Big Eyes” with “Ed Wood” screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski for another tale of a strange fellow on the fringes of stardom, clawing his way into relevance no matter the cost. While “Big Eyes” doesn’t have the whimsical spirit of “Ed Wood’s” love-letter to a purveyor of crap, instead diving into the darkness that comes from Keane being cornered by the idea of the truth being revealed, the film rekindles enough of that spirit to make you look forward to Burton’s next project with an open mind.


October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Voices of Charlie Tahan, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows”)
Written by: John August (“Corpse Bride,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)

The legend of Tim Burton’s original incarnation of “Frankenweenie,” produced as a short film for his then-current employer Disney, was recounted over and over after Burton shot to the top of the Hollywood A-list in the late-’80s thanks to the success of “Beetlejuice” and “Batman.” The live-action black-and-white tale of a young boy who brings his dead dog back to life through the power of electricity was deemed too scary for young Disney audiences and Burton was fired. The studio felt the director had wasted their money on a frightening dud and its release was scrapped…so the legend goes, anyway.

Twenty-eight years later, Burton has revisited and re-worked “Frankenweenie” as a feature-length stop-motion animated affair. Once again, the film tells the story of young Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan), a shy boy who spends his time making monster movies featuring his toys and starring his beloved dog Sparky. When his parents (voices of Martin Short and Catherine O’Hara) decide Victor needs to get out of the house more, they force him to play in a baseball game. Victor ends up smacking an unlikely home run, which sends the excitable Sparky after the ball and straight into the street. Tragedy strikes, and Sparky is killed by a passing car. The grief-stricken Victor slinks his way through the following days, only to be filled with hope after his eccentric science teacher Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau) demonstrates how electricity can re-animate a deceased frog. Victor sneaks out of the house to do some late-night grave robbing, hauling Sparky’s corpse into his makeshift laboratory. A few stitches and one lightning storm later, Victor Frankenstein again has his best friend Sparky at his side.

“Frankenweenie” doesn’t quite send Burton back to his creative peak, but it does do a pretty good job of washing away the recent stink of things like “Dark Shadows” or “Alice in Wonderland.” Instead of relying on Johnny Depp (who is refreshingly absent) mugging in a fright wig and pancake make-up, “Frankenweenie” wisely relishes in dark and twisted animation and delightful, dialogue-free sequences driven by Danny Elfman’s bouncy haunted-house-ready score. Unfortunately, though, the stretching of the original 30-minute short to feature-length leaves the plot threadbare and directionless in the middle. Characters like the stern Mr. Bergermeister (also Martin Short) and Victor’s classmate Elsa van Helsing (voice of Winona Ryder) are given ample screen time at the beginning only to be stranded with nothing to do by the time the third act rolls around. Also, a storyline featuring other reanimated house pets winds up mostly confusing. Despite being close to a return to form for Burton, it’s hard to shake the feeling that “Frankenweenie” just misses the mark.

Dark Shadows

May 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer, Eva Green
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”)
Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith (debut)

Since the days of “Edward Scissorhands,” the cinematic pairing of director Tim Burton with mega-star Johnny Depp has brought with it certain expectations: a Gothic tone, a chilly color palette, and Depp in some form of fright wig/pancake make-up combination. When it works, as in “Scissorhands” or “Sweeny Todd,” it’s a delightful marriage of style and quirk. When it doesn’t, however, as in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “Alice in Wonderland,” the end result is an exhausting mess of, well, style and quirk. But in a bad way.

In their eighth collaborative effort, Burton and Depp tackle a project seemingly tailor-made for their sensibilities: a big-screen adaptation of “Dark Shadows,” the cult TV soap opera from the late-’60s best known for it’s main character, vampire Barnabas Collins. Depp, of course, plays Collins, who narrates a grim prologue detailing his youth spent in colonial Maine. As the son of a wealthy fishing family, Collins meets with tragedy after romantically spurning Angelique (Eva Green), a family housekeeper who also happens to be a witch. Soon afterward, Collins’ parents are killed in an accident engineered by Angelique. She is also responsible for Collins’ fiancee Josette (Bella Heathcote) being bewitched into throwing herself off a cliff, as well as Collins himself being cursed to live out eternity as a vampire buried alive in a locked coffin.

The story jumps ahead to 1972 as a young woman, Victoria (also Bella Heathcote), travels to Collinwood to take a job as a governess for what remains of the Collins family. Led by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfieffer) and featuring weaselly brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), rebellious teenager Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz) and haunted child David (Gully McGrath), the family is in shambles both financially and emotionally. The arrival of Victoria is meant to bring stability to David, who is grieving the loss of his mother. However Victoria has her own problems, namely a tragic childhood and ghost that looks just like her prowling the halls of the sprawling mansion passing on cryptic messages. And all of this happens before a construction crew accidentally frees Barnabas Collins, whose return prompts retaliatory action from the still-living Angelique (now known as Angel, the town’s powerful fishing magnate) as well as a whole mess of fish-out-of-water jokes. Crap, I haven’t even gotten to the fact that Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Earl Haley are hanging around Collinwood, too.

If you think that sounds like too much plot and too many characters for a movie running just under 2 hours, you’re right. Threads are picked up and dropped at a moment’s notice. Heathcote’s Victoria is saddled with a laborious back story that fails to pay off in any way. On the flip side, Moretz’s Carolyn is given an out-of-left-field third act twist that’s explained away by one throwaway line of dialogue. Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Hoffman doesn’t offer much to the story beyond an eye-rolling set up for a sequel that is likely dead on arrival. And even with a fine performance by Depp, Collins is given little to do but stalk from plot point to plot point to deliver wry lines in an aristocratic accent. Pair things like that with a wildly inconsistent tone that veers on a whim from straight-faced melancholy to winking dry humor and we’re left with another tiresome disappointment from Burton wherein the only element given any attention seems to have been Johnny Depp’s make-up.

Alice in Wonderland

March 5, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter
Directed by: Tim Burton (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)
Written by: Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King”)

Director Tim Burton’s visual sensibility is once again at the forefront of another dark spectacle full of big ideas but ultimately hollow at its core. This time it’s “Alice in Wonderland,” a beautifully-realized take on the popular 19th century Lewis Carroll tale, which has been remade numerous times in the past 100 years.

In the newest version, “Alice” takes the best of what Burton does and buries it under an incoherent narrative by animated film screenwriter Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”). It’s not so much that the magic or overall look has been squandered. The twisted tale of a Mad Hatter, a waist-coated white rabbit, and Cheshire Cat is quite stunning with the characters going through a computer-generated makeover. Burton’s version, however, must overcompensate on imagination when the sluggish story sucks all the adventure out of what could have been an epic reimaging of a beloved classic.

Fresh-face Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (“Defiance”) is entrusted with the role of the title character. In a sort of sequel to any of the preceding films, here Alice is actually returning to the fantasy world most people know from the trippy Disney film of 1951. In this adaptation, Alice is an unconventional 19-year-old who visits a place called Underland after she rejects a suitor who has asked for her hand in marriage.

Bothered by nightmares of her first journey down the rabbit hole (an event she hardly remembers), Alice stumbles yet again into a land where flowers talk, frogs are royal servants, and oversized facial features are signs power. Woolverton’s script even finds room for Carroll’s Jabberwocky, a monstrous character first introduced in his novel “Through the Looking Glass.”

Since her last visit, the vile and bulbous-headed Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken over. Alice does her best impersonation of the kids from “The Chronicles of Narnia” to try to stop her and her loyal army. A prophetic scroll shown at the beginning of her second coming reveals Alice to be the one who will put an end to the queen’s reign. Most of the characters, however, think she is the “wrong Alice” and won’t be able to help.

Cast near-perfectly especially with Johnny Depp as the eccentric Mad Hatter, Crispin Glover as the sinister Knave of Hearts, and Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry lending their voices for the hooka-smoking Blue Caterpillar and the hypnotic Cheshire Cat respectively, “Alice” definitely transports us to the world we all new Burton could create. It’s unfortunate, however, that the digital enhancements outweigh a story that is more aware of its dreamlike marvels than before. Because Alice is older, that childlike sense of wonderment is absent. Woolverton (off with her head!) compounds the problem by fashioning a whimsical yet convoluted tale that often becomes dull and gaudy all at once.