Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

la la land

An out of work actress named Mia (Emma Stone) keeps bumping into a soon to be out of work jazz pianist named Sebastian. (Ryan Gosling)  The first time they meet they give each other “the bird” in a traffic jam.  The next time they meet is shortly after Sebastian gets fired during Christmas.  The two meet again at a party when Mia requests a cheesy 80’s song and asks Sebastian to play the keyboard portion of it.  They meet again looking for their cars during a lovely sunset.  Later, Sebastian finds out that Mia has never seen Rebel Without A Cause and asks her to come see it, but she’s got a boyfriend, and she hates jazz, and he doesn’t want a girlfriend, especially one who doesn’t like jazz.  And they’ve both got big dreams.  She wants to be an actress, he wants to open a jazz club.  Does she go to the movie?  Or are their meetings just coincidental?

There are many good things about La La Land, but the writing is for most of the film is trite.  It follows all the conventions of every romantic comedy ever made including the man and woman hating each other at first sight.  Why does this always happen in the movies?  Nobody hates someone in real life and then, poof magic.  Nothing works that way.    There is a twist near the end, and the ending itself evolves into somewhat of a mystery, which belies the happy mood of the first hour, but is still better than a conventional Hollywood ending.

Ryan Gosling has made a living playing brooding, taciturn, characters, like in Driver, or Blue Valentine, so it was anyone’s guess how he would handle the lead in a musical romantic comedy.  He handles  the comedic part of the role well, but when the script turns more dramatic, his delivery is surprisingly flat. The same can be said for Emma Stone, she couldn’t really handle the more dramatic scenes, and even the comedic scenes, she would sometimes make a  silly face.  The two didn’t seem to have any chemistry, maybe it was the age difference.  Gosling is 8 years older than Stone, maybe that’s why they didn’t seem to have any sparks.   J.K. Simmons had a small role, I wish it was bigger, he is a heck of an actor.

There is a lot of good in this film, and most of it comes from  the director’s chair.  Damien Chazelle is a very talented director, and he realizes that film is a visual medium. This film pops with color, even the scenes filmed at night are brightly lit and look as if they were painted with a brush.  This is also a love letter to classic film, movie posters are strewn all over Mia’s apartment and the cameras catch all of it.  Even when the colors don’t pop, the camera is shooting from some interesting angle or other.  This is not Top Hat or Singin in The Rain, but that it aspires to be and tries to bring back the movie musical is a laudable aspiration.   The choreography is great, the songs are great, those two elements by  themselves make the movie worth watching. There are  portions of this this movie that are told without a word being spoken, that is an incredible achievement.

La La Land:  Mostly music to my  ears.

 

indignation

In 1951, after a strife filled life in Newark New Jersey, living with his Jewish parents and working in his dad’s butcher shop Marcus Messner  (Logan Lerman) goes away to a Christian college in Ohio.  His parents want him to join a Jewish fraternity, but he steadfastly refuses.  He moves in with two Jewish roommates and works in the college library.  It is there that he meets and falls for Olivia Hutton. (Sarah Gadon)  Soon thereafter, he goes out on a date with her.  Inexplicably, near the end of the date, Olivia pleasures Marcus sexually in the car.  This puts a strain on the relationship, because Marcus isn’t sure why she did what she did.  Olivia writes Marcus a letter, explaining that before she came to Ohio, she was an alcoholic, who tried to commit suicide.   While trying to digest that information, Marcus also finds himself at odds with the school dean, Dean Caudwell, (Tracy Letts) who has a problem with Marcus’ atheism.  After an argument with the dean, Marcus vomits and faints, he has appendicitis.  In the hospital, Olivia visits Marcus again, and starts pleasuring him again in the hospital bed, a nurse sees Olivia, but seemingly does not report her behavior.

As Marcus gets ready to leave the hospital, his mother, Esther (Linda Emond) comes to visit. She has shocking news, she wants a divorce from Marcus’ father Max. (Danny Burstein)  Esther also meets Oliva and implores Marcus to break up with her.  Marcus goes back to college only to find Olivia is gone.  What happened to her?  Does Marcus ever find her?

This is a semi-autobiographical look at author Phillip Roth’s college life.  While sexual repression and religious conformity was commonplace in the 1950’s, I doubt that those issues exist today to the extent that they did in 1951, anti-Semitism will always exist, and this movie doesn’t make a specifically Jewish appeal, it’s more a agnostic’s appeal for freedom from religion.  Marcus in fact is disliked by Jews in the college, and dislikes Jews in the college, what he’s experiencing is not anti-Semitism as much as Christian religious conformity. At a time when atheists probably outnumber Christians in this country, I didn’t find anything in this movie particularly relevant to today’s society.  Actually, Olivia’s storyline was much more interesting than Marcus’ but Marcus was the main character, so he got most of the attention. The movie seems much too overwrought, the confrontations between Marcus and the dean seem stilted and staged, everything is much too serious, and I don’t think Marcus ever loved Olivia, so it wasn’t much of a romance.

Logan Lerman is a good young actor, but the character he plays isn’t very likeable, so it’s a difficult role for him to play.  Similarly, Sarah Godon plays a woman searching for love and acceptance, and replacing that with sexual gratification, but there is no explanation of who or what damaged her psyche, so she remains a one dimensional character.  Tracy Letts plays an unlikeable character in a likeable manner, which added to my confusion about this film.

The director is also the writer, in this case that’s a bad thing, because the director won’t edit his own words, and that makes the pacing drag. The performances didn’t stand out, and there were no visual flourishes to speak of.

Indignation:  I didn’t dig it.

better-off-dead

Lane Meyer (John Cusack) is an average teenager with a lot of issues.  His mother Jenny, (Kim Darby ) can’t cook.  His father Al, (David Ogden Stiers ) has issues with the paperboy.  His brother Badger (Scooter Stevens) is sending for weird books through the mail.  He has Korean brothers, Yee Sook Ree (Yuji Okamoto) and Chen Ree (Brian Imada) trying to drag race him, when all he drives is his parents station wagon, and his classic Camaro sits under a sheet, untouched by human hands.  His neighbor Ricky Smith (Dan Schneider) is spending the summer with a pretty exchange student, named Monique, (Diane Franklin) who can’t speak a word of English.  But at least Lane has a girlfriend named Beth (Amanda Wyss) who he obsesses over.

But then Beth breaks up with Lane, she starts going out with ski champ Roy Stalin (Aaron Dozier) needless to say, Lane takes the breakup badly.  He tries to commit suicide, albeit half-heartedly.  Lane’s friend, Charles De Mar (Curtis Armstrong)  advises Lane to ski the K12, the most challenging ski run in the area and to take up the saxophone, both designed win Beth’s heart back. His father wants Lane to date Joanne Greenwald to help dad’s business prospects.  In a fit of anger, Lane challenges Roy to a race down K12.  Lane is a good skier, but is he ready for K12?  And if he does race, will this impress Beth, or win him the affections of another girl, Joanne Greenwald or Monique perhaps?

When I watched this movie 32 years ago, I thought it was better than it actually was.  Now I watch it, and as much as I wanted to slap a classic tag on it, I couldn’t.  The production values are so cheap, the recurring gags recur so many times, hinting at a lack of material, and the plot is so stunningly obvious from the start, that despite my admiration for John Cusack, I just couldn’t label this movie a classic.  I realize now  my fondness for Better Off Dead occurs more from nostalgia than it being a good movie.  And suicide is never funny, and shouldn’t be treated as a joke.

The actors are very familiar.  John Cusack gives a heartfelt performance as a heartbroken teen, but this is familiar territory for him.  He plays similar roles in Say Anything and The Sure Thing, and I think the best of the three is The Sure Thing, but his performance in this is worth watching for sure.  David Ogden Stiers is from MASH of course, and he plays the clueless father with some of the same timing he had in MASH, Amanda Wyss was in Nightmare on Elm Street, and plays Beth to be as unlikeable as possible. Diane Franklin, who was in Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure had great chemistry with Cusack and also made the movie worth watching.  Curtis Armstrong is best known to me as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds and essentially plays the same character, a wise guy, who’s been around the block a few times. E.G. Daily, from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure even sings a few songs. All this 80’s talent should’ve resulted in a better movie.

I think the fault lies in the direction.  “Savage” Steve Holland is the director’s name and he sure savages his movie.  The movie has no continuity, the scenes seem like a bunch of vignetttes, loosely tied together, and as soon the punch line hits, it’s on to the next scene. The recurring gags grow tiresome after repeated use, and the best part of the film, the animation, is used too sparingly.  To his credit, the music is good, and there is at least one good skiing montage, and the last ski race is filmed well.

Better Off Dead:  Worse than I remember.

 

westworld

Episode 1:  The Original

Westworld is a world where android hosts are built to please human customers.  When one of the androids goes awry, senior programmer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is called in to find out what the glitch is.  Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babbet Knudson) wants all the defective androids recalled, but the creator of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford, (Anthony Hopkins) doesn’t want the androids shut down at all.

This is a very interesting episode, the writers are intentionally vague about several things, when this world is built, who the humans are, and if the robots are becoming self-aware.  The last factor is perhaps the most interesting and makes this series worth watching, at least so far.  The writers are Jonathan Nolan and his wife Lisa Joy.  Jonathan Nolan has co-written some of the most interesting sci-fi movies in recent memory, Interstellar, The Dark Knight, and Memento, to name a few.  So. I hope the writing stays this sharp.

Anthony Hopkins is great as the founder, he’s obviously conflicted between making the androids as lifelike as possible, and keeping people safe.  It’s a very subtle performance.  Jeffrey Wright is also very good as the lead programmer, desperately trying to find out what’s going wrong with the androids.  Evan Rachel Wood is interesting as an android just starting to realize that she may not be human.  Sidse Babbet Knudson gives an intense performance as an operations leader, she wants to keep Westworld safe above all.

The cinematography is superb.  There are beautiful exterior shots of mostly Utah, and those shots set the stage for what is essentially a Western drama.

Episode 2:  Chestnut

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) is having private conversations with Bernard, which Bernard doesn’t want anyone to know about.  Bernard’s relationship with Theresa Cullen extends beyond the boardroom.  Two guests arrive at Westworld, Logan (Ben Barnes) has been there before, William (Jimmi Simpson) has not. Maeve (Thandie Newton) is having flashbacks to an earlier adventure.  The Man in Black (Ed Harris) wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes at Westworld.  Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) creates a new storyline for Westworld, does Ford approve?

What I like about this show is that there are about 5 storylines going on, and all five are interesting.  The androids having memories, and the programmer and the android having private conversations are the most interesting.  Great acting by Hopkins, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton keeps the tension in the script high, and it never lets up.  The least interesting of the storylines are the new guests, hope that gets better, but I am hooked, oh yes I am.

 Episode 3: The Stray

Bernard is still talking to Dolores. He gives her a book, Alice in Wonderland. Dolores learns to shoot from Teddy, after recalling a distant memory.  Bernard learns about an old programmer named Arnold from Ford. Teddy gets a new storyline.  William gets a new adventure. Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) go in search of a stray android.  Dolores finds her way to William and passes out.

There are some interesting bits here, the continuing evolution of Dolores, Bernard’s fascination with Dolores.  Maeve’s continuing recall, but I don’t like William and his friend, and don’t like Ashley and Elsie. It’s funny the human characters are less interesting than the android characters.  I don’t know if Luke Hemsworth is any better an actor than his brothers, Chris and Liam.

Episode 4:   Dissonance Theory

Bernard tells Dolores that she can go search for the maze and that will set her fee, instead she gets caught in a bounty hunt with William and Logan. The Man in Black is getting close to finding the maze himself, but isn’t there yet.  Maeve continues to have visions, and turns to outlaw Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) for help.  Theresa has a disturbing conversation with Ford.

It’s interesting that the androids are becoming self-aware, but I think the most interesting aspect of this episode is Ford.  I also found Maeve to be more and more sympathetic of a character.  I have my theories about the world that Ford has created, but I will keep those to myself, because it’s only speculation. William and Logan are not interesting characters, William is supposed to be sympathetic, Logan is a macho know-it-all creep. Dolores is starting to annoy me as a character, too much Hamlet type indecisiveness.  Get on with it, writers.

Episode 5: Contrapasso

Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, another Western town.   Dolores is hearing voices, who are the voices coming from?  The Man in Black finds Ford, what do they talk about?  Elsie finds something odd inside The Woodcutter.  Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) one of the techies, who patch the androids together, is working on building an animatronic hummingbird.  Maeve comes in for more repairs, and then Felix gets quite a surprise.

Westworld is getting really interesting now, Dolores is hearing voices and lying to protect herself and the identity of the voice.  Maeve is getting more self-aware, and her storyline is coming to a head.  I don’t like the William and Logan characters or their involvement in the storyline, or Elsie and the Woodcutter, which sounds like some kind of fractured fairytale.  But I do like Ford’s character because he always keeps me guessing. A great performance by Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton is also superb as Maeve, quick witted, acid tongued, yet vulnerable, it’s a very good performance.

Episode 6:  The Adversary

Maeve begins a regular day and ends up passed out in the lab with Felix. Elsie sends Bernard to find out what made the Woodcutter act strangely, and then she goes out alone to do more digging.  Lee goes on a drunken rage and runs into Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) a new arrival in Westworld.  Teddy and the Man in Black encounter Union soldiers when trying to cross into Mexico.

I really like the Maeve storyline, that’s the best one they’ve got right now. Thandie Newton turns in another great performance in this episode. Elsie’s storyline was a bit creepy in a scary way, but also dumb. Why is Elsie going to these places at night, alone? Where is Ashley Stubbs?  Isn’t he head of security?  Why isn’t he with her?  Not sure what’s going on with Lee and Charlotte, but Lee is a jerk, so I hope it ends badly for him.  Not sure where the Man in Black Teddy storyline is going, but it seems to be going in circles. No Dolores, William or Logan this week, which is fine by me, I was bored with them anyway.

Episode 7:  Trompe L’oeil

Bernard dreams of his dying son. Theresa and Charlotte want a fall guy for the malfunctioning androids, but Ford has other ideas. Elsie is missing, Bernard tries to look for her. William, Dolores and Lawrence encounter a Native American tribe in their quest to find the maze. Maeve has a plan, but will Felix and Sylvester go along?

There is a big reveal in this week’s episode, I can’t say I was shocked by it, I wasn’t.  I don’t like the Dolores William storyline.  William already knows the secret of Westworld and Maeve has already found out, so why have Dolores and the Man in Black trying to find the same thing?  I like the Maeve storyline, her character has grabbed the center of attention in the show, and again, Thandie Newton is very good.  She doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in this episode, but it packs a punch.  Anthony Hopkins is at his creepy best, the viewers will grow to loathe him, but that’s just good acting.

Episode 8:  Trace Decay

Maeve wants new skills to advance her plan, will Felix and Sylvester help her?  Bernard tries to forget what has happened to Theresa.  Dolores and William are still looking for the maze, as are the Man In Black and Teddy.

The Maeve storyline continues to be the best one, the writers tried to integrate the Maeve and Man in Black storyline and did not succeed, on my opinion.  The Bernard storyline is pointless after the reveal.  I do not like the Maze storyline, the writers seem to want to shroud this Maze in mystery, but it is not interesting to me.  The writers leave this episode on a cliffhanger, but not a very interesting one.

Episode 9:  The Well-Tempered Clavier

Bernard and Ford have a long discussion about existence in Westworld.  William and Logan reconcile, or do they?  Dolores meets Arnold, or is she simply losing her mind? The Man in Black is still looking for answers, does he find any?

This is a much too philosophical episode, too existential, too metaphysical. The episode reveals more about Bernard, but the viewer already knows about him, so it doesn’t really help. It reveals more about The Man in Black, but I never really cared about him. The lead up to the finale is muddled and raises more questions than it answers.

 

Episode 10:  The Bicameral Mind

Ford unveils his new narrative.  Maeve sets her plan in motion.  The Man in Black reaches his destination.  Dolores realizes what she’s meant to do.  William learns the art of survival in Westworld.

This episode reveals a lot, but there are more questions raised, some of them frustrating.  The viewer and the blogger (me) will supposedly have to wait until 2018 to find answers to these burning questions.

Overall, the storylines were incredibly well-written.   I wasn’t as enamored with the Western storyline as the others, it seemed to drag on and on, neither William Logan, nor Dolores was very interesting.  Dolores started out interestingly, but they made Dolores too much of an enigma for my liking.  The Maeve storyline was the best storyline, so I was bit disappointed in her character’s finale.  Bernard was an intriguing character for a while, but after his reveal, my interest in him waned.  What the writers did best was blur the lines between android and human.  The show did it right off the bat, and kept viewers guessing who was human and who was android. What I didn’t like was the extremely violent finale, and the never ending bullets.  Nobody ever runs out of bullets in Hollywood.  But whatever shortcomings the series has, it asks big philosophical questions like.  If we create self-aware beings is it right for us to keep them as playthings? Sometimes it gets too philosophical, but mostly it’s a great sci-fi adventure.

The acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins played the role of his life and played it to the hilt.  He has a God complex and he thinks he can control people just like he controls androids.  Hopkins really turns up the creepy factor in this performance. Thandie Newton was amazing as Maeve Millay, this was undoubtedly the best performance of her career.  She mixed excellent comedic timing with a sad irony that showed in her face and her words, just a great performance. Jeffrey Wright was also very good, a very restrained understated performance.  On the other hand I didn’t like Evan Rachel Wood’s performance, it was too much a one note performance, she’s not supposed to be emotional, but she could have been a little more emotional than she was. Jimmi Simpson was just plain dull as William, he had a big role, but he is not very good at playing the complexities he was given. I like James Marsden, but his character was a total non-entity in this season’s episodes, maybe that will change.  I hope so.  I expected more from Ed Harris too, he put in a routine performance as the Man in Black.

The direction was good. Jonathan Nolan directed the pilot and the last episode, and other directors directed the episodes between. The pacing was generally good, the cinematography was excellent, and the performances were mostly good.

Westworld:  It rocked my world!

 

 

fantastic-beasts

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York in 1926.  He has a suitcase full of creatures that he is sure won’t hurt anyone.   He runs into Non-Maj Jacob Kowalski, (Dan Fogler) who works in a cannery, but dreams of being a baker. Jacob has a suitcase full of baked goods.  They accidentally switch suitcases, which gets Newt in trouble demoted wizard investigator, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) who accuses Newt of being an unregistered wizard, and takes the case to the Magical Congress of the USA, who dismisses the case, despite widespread accounts of property damage.  But then, without warning, a Senator, Langdon Shaw (Ronan Raftery) dies, and Newt’s animals are still on the loose.  Are Newt’s animals responsible for the Senator’s death or is something else at work?  Will the Senator’s death result in a war between humans and wizards in America?

Fantastic Beasts is a good movie, but it takes a long time to bring its disparate storylines together.  It tries to be a comedy with Jacob Kowalski being the comedy relief, it tries to be a romance, and to be a social commentary with dialogue about the anti-wizarding laws present in America at the time, which could draw parallels from anything to the Salem Witch Trials to McCarthyism, to the Holocaust, to anti-gay or religiously restrictive laws that may come in the US.  The oblique references to darker issues were not the problem. The real problem is that ithe script spends too much time on the beasts, which at times are treated as rescue animals or worse, characters from Pokemon Go. The story picks up with the death of the Senator, and maintains the interest throughout.  JK Rowling wants to make the story an epic, with plenty of characters and therefore has to do a lot of exposition, but  she would have been better served making the story more focused and cutting the superfluous story elements.  Fantastic Beasts is not as good as Harry Potter, but is different enough to be interesting and can stand on its own.

The acting is superb.  Eddie Redmayne gives Newt a playful nature, in keeping with the lightness of the script.  Redmayne implies with each sly smile that he is a wizard, but that shy charm may be his most powerful spell.  Katherine Waterston gives a serious, subtle, grounded performance.  Tina does not seem to be overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding her.  The relationship between Tina and Newt, if there is one is very subtle. Dan Fogler was welcome comic relief, it was nice to see Rowling’s adult characters have some fun for a change.  Allison Sudol adds an ethereal touch to Queenie, Tina’s sister, and Jacob’s love interest, as if she might be too good to be true.  Adding some shades of gray to his performance, Colin Farrell commands attention as Graves, the senior wizard investigator.  Despite his short time on the screen, he finds ways to make his character interesting in different ways. He deserved a bigger role.

The direction isn’t bad,  the pacing drags at times, but that could be from the sheer number of characters and plotlines that need to be introduced  The special effects were well integrated into the story, and therefore didn’t seem to take over.  The performances were very good, but is that the director’s doing or the actors playing them?  I don’t know.  Colin Farrell is a very good actor, and Eddie Redmayne, even at a young age, has proven himself a huge talent.  David Yates, the director has directed four Potter movies, so he knows what this kind of story entails.

Fantastic Beasts:  Beast not afraid, there’s four more movies to come.

swiss-army-man

Hank (Paul Dano) is a man stranded on a deserted island, until he finds a corpse floating in the water.  Hank names the corpse Manny. (Daniel Radcliffe)  Hank discovers he can talk to Manny, and that Manny’s continued flatulence moves them from one side of the island to the other.  The gas can even scare off bears.  The more Hank talks to Manny, the more alive Manny becomes.  When Hank starts talking to Manny about a girl named Sarah, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) Manny really starts to perk up.  The more Hank talks to Manny, the closer they become, but whose girlfriend is Sarah?  And will the friendship that has developed between Hank and Manny disappear because of Sarah?  Do Hank and Manny make it off the island?

Swiss Army Man is a bizarre movie if taken literally, a man stranded on an island talking to a corpse and the corpse starts to talk back.  But if taken as a metaphor about friendship or love it starts to make sense, Hank either loves himself enough to will himself out of his current circumstances or he loves Sarah enough to brighten his current circumstances.  The movie is obviously about love, either love of a friend or love of a girl than may rescue a person from the direst of circumstances.  I’d like to give the movie that much credit, but it is far too juvenile for long stretches to deserve that sort of credit.  It’s overreliance on flatulence as a plot device, its incessant talk of masturbation, and erections make it seem like Swiss Army Men was written by a pair of teenagers.  And of course there are gay overtones in the friendship between Manny and Hank, because men can’t just be friends right? The final nail in this movie’s coffin is the idiotic M. Knight Shyamalan nothing-is-as-it-appears to-be- ending. This movie took a good premise and wrecked it.

The performances are good.  Dano is good as a lonely guy on the verge of suicide, who just needs someone to love him.  He conveys a sense of shy desperation well.  Daniel Radcliffe is very good, despite being given some very awkward dialogue.  He is the human Swiss Army knife a multi-use instrument used to survive a desperate situation.  He is friend, rival, and love interest all rolled into one, and he has to do it with the constraints of acting like a corpse.  This is also about as far away from Harry Potter as Radcliffe can get, so give him credit for taking risks. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is woefully underused in  this film as Sarah, it’s a shame, because she has become one of my favorite new actresses.

The direction is ok for a movie with such a small budget, there is a sense  of whimsy in some of the sequences where Hank experiences love, but the island scenes are pretty pedestrian, and the pacing is pretty slow for such a short film, barely over 90 minutes.  The performances are good, but I don’t know if the credit belongs to the actors or the director.

Swiss Army Man:  A sometimes cutting satire.

miss-peregrine

Teenage outcast Jake Portman (Asa Butterfield) lives in Florida with his parents.   While growing up, Jake’s grandfather Abe (Terrance Stamp) about his adventures fighting monsters during WWII.  One night, Jake receives a frantic call from his grandfather, Abe, and travels to Abe’s   home to find it broken into, and Abe missing.  When he finds Abe, he is dying.  Abe’s last words to Jake are the bird, the loop, and September 3rd 1943.  Jake sees a giant monster hovering over Abe, and begins to think his grandfather’s stories may be true.  After visiting a psychiatrist named Dr. Golan (Allyson Janney) for several weeks, Jake and his father Franklin (Chris O’Dowd) decide to go to Wales, where Franklin is researching a book.

Jake does a little research on his own and finds his grandfather’s school was bombed to rubble in 1943. While searching through the rubble, Jake goes into a cave and sees some of the kids from his grandfather’s stories.  He rushes back to the hotel, except its 1943.  He goes back to the school where he meets the headmistress Miss Peregrine, (Eva Green) a Ymbryne who can turn into a falcon, and falls in love with one of the teenaged students named Emma Bloom, (Ella Purnell) a Peculiar who can turn air into hurricane force winds. Jake learns that Miss Peregrine created a loop that repeats the day the school was destroyed, stops the day just before the bomb falls, and resets the loop to the beginning of the day.  The chief Hollowcast Monster, Barron (Samuel L Jackson) resorts to eating the eyes of Peculiars like Emma to regain semi-human form, and is plotting to kidnap Miss Peregrine and use her powers to achieve immortality. Will Jake stop Baron’s plot?  Will he save Miss Peregrine and his grandfather’s schoolmates from destruction?  Will he find love with Emma in 1943?

Miss Peregrine’s School is obviously a metaphor for the Holocaust.  Jake’s family is Jewish so when his grandfather speaks of fighting monsters during WWII, anyone with any knowledge of history would recognize the monsters are the Nazis. I think the books and the movie are a good starting point for kids who might not have learned about the Holocaust in school.  But then, the story tries to become a love story, and the love story is awkward to say the least. Jake is in love with his grandfather’s girlfriend, who’s stick in 1943.  What the Harry Potter movies did well is they kept Harry free of romantic entanglements, and concentrated on the wizarding.  This movie gets bogged down by an unnecessary love story, and that detracts from a good story. To top it off, the climax of the movie is something out of a tv show.  The story is far from flawless but it is good, despite obvious similarities to Harry Potter.

Eva Green is perfect for the role of Miss Peregrine.  She is sprightly yet stern, and captures the whimsy and the strictness of the role perfectly. She handles the lighter moments and more serious moments with equal ease. The affectation of her smoking a pipe is a good one in keeping with the stodgy matriarchal architype.  Samuel L. Jackson seems to enjoy playing the evil leader of the Hollows, he does it with a toothy grin and a glint in his eye. Asa Butterfield is very good, as the outcast who doesn’t quite fit in America, who fits in perfectly with the kids with the special abilities.  He became famous in another Holocaust themed movie, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, and he does a pretty good American accent in this movie.  Judi Dench makes a small cameo.

Tim Burton makes a nice comeback to his visual glory here with all kinds of odd creatures lurking about.  Burton can use images for either comedy or suspense, like very few directors, and he does both visual comedy and suspense in this movie.  It’s nice to see Burton feeling comfortable, and able to flex his creative muscles.  The pacing is a little slow at times, and the length was too long, and could have used some editing.  But Burton gets good performances from everyone especially the younger actors, so it is an enjoyable way to spend a coupe hours.

Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children:  A flight of fancy.