Monthly Archives: January 2017
Director: Tim Burton
There is one thing you can guarantee with a Tim Burton movie. Eccentricity. Actually, there are a lot more things you can guarantee, darkness, imagination, creation, interesting characters. Most importantly you are almost always guaranteed entertainment. The debut novel from American author, Ransom Riggs, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was right up his street. As much as the story suited the director, the director suited the story and the novel was blown open in a vivid portrayal of pure peculiarity, a perfect match for Burton.
Jake, is a young boy who for years has listened to the fantasy stories his grandfather Abe used to tell him. The stories were of a younger Abe that stayed at a children’s home in Wales during the Second World War run by a teacher called Miss Peregrine. The children who stay at the house are outcasts who all have supernatural abilities. When Jake turns 16, Abe starts suffering from dementia and the stories he keeps reciting soon become confused with the addled state of his mind. During one difficult phone call, Jake heads over to his Grandfather’s house. When he gets there he is nowhere to be seen and the house has been ransacked. Jake later finds his Grandfather in the trees surrounding his house with his eyes missing. He also sees figures in the shadows of those his Grandfather spoke of and then, with the last of his breath, he utters a warning to Jake.
Jake struggles to come to terms with the loss of his Grandfather and the relationship between his parents and him do not help the situation. Fuelled by the revelations, Jake is determined to head to Cairnholm in Wales to track down the whereabouts of the children’s home. Joined by his father, the pair travel to the remote part of the country and stay in the only hotel on the island. Jake tracks down the home, but discovers it was destroyed by German bombs during the war. His persistence gets the better of him and he meets some of the “peculiars” sent by Miss Peregrine who saw the pair travelling on a boat whilst in her bird form. They take him through a cave which is one of many “loops” situated in various situations. “Loops” are like holes where time can be manipulated. They are transported back to 1943, a time when the house was at its fullest, most radiant glory.
Jake meets the residents of the home. A girl who can create fire, a boy with bees in his mouth, a girl lighter than air who has to wear special lead shoes, a boy who is invisible and a girl with the strength of ten men, to name but a few. He also learns that their fates are not safe as they are hunted down by Mr. Barron, leader of a group called the “Wights”. Only a handful of them survived an experiment that turned them into huge monsters known as “Hollows” who feed of the eyes of children. These monsters can be seen by nobody, except Jake. Still, the Wights hunt the children down and vow to destroy the world.
The plot is very bulky and full of enticing information. It can also be tricky to understand, but the enjoyment of the movie will hold your attention, thus aiding you in understanding the story. The attraction of the movie from a British point of view was the revelation that some of the scenes would be filmed at Blackpool Tower (as they do in the book), soon social media was awash with images, particularly those of actor Samuel L. Jackson who often photographed himself in Blackpool and its surrounding locations.
Eva Green portrays the role of Miss Peregrine perfectly, with a mysterious air surrounding her and majestic prowess. Asa Butterfield (he of “The Boy in the Stripe Pajamas” fame) played Jake and played it well in a commanding lead role. Terence Stamp played Jake’s Grandfather, Abe and gave the role much mystery in his performance. The strength of the performance captivated in Stamp’s eyes that evoke such vivid beauty in his performance. You can still hear the echoes of his infamous “Come and kneel before Zod!” line as delivered in Superman 2. Samuel L. Jackson was the Mr. Barron complete with sharp teeth, white hair and eyes. An eerie, often terrifying role that often bordered on being a bit too “hammy” as much as I dislike casting any detriment toward him as I believe he is a fine actor.
The intrigue of the characters and the often dark spells of the movie add to the overall appeal. The imagination of Ransom Riggs combined with the imagination and creation of Tim Burton make this movie work. There are no end to the possibilities that have been dreamt up and that made every scene refreshing. It also added elements of suspense and uncertainty which gives the horror aspect of the fantasy story.
Director: Ricky Gervais
Writer: Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais is nothing short of genius. He is a writer, director, comedian, actor, musician, songwriter, the list goes on. But he is also humble with his stature, although he himself would lead you to believe otherwise, but that is part of who he is.
In 2001 the world was not only properly introduced to Ricky Gervais, but also to a man called David Brent, a manager at a paper merchants in Slough called “Wernham Hogg”. It was a comedy series filmed as a mock style documentary expertly highlighting the traditional ways of office life. Originally starting life on BBC2, the series struggled to hit the ratings, but before long word began to spread, the show moved to BBC1 and the popularity soared.
Gervais knows how to write and he also knows how not to overdo it. He likes to keep things simple. The standard of his shows being a minimum of two series and often some Christmas specials. The Office spawned its own Christmas specials back in 2003 and that’s the last we heard of David Brent…until now.
Life on the Road is the film version of David Brent, an hour and thirty six minutes of the manager that everyone hates to love. The film shows Brent’s true passion which is music and sees him team up with a group of musicians to embark on a tour under the band name, Foregone Conclusion, which Brent funds himself. The tour, if you can describe it as that considering the majority of it takes place only a matter of miles from Slough, really shows Brent in his natural style and the relationship he has with the band is nothing short of hysterical.
Life on the Road is definitely in keeping with the cringe worthy themes that The Office became famous for and there were plenty of moments in which the tradition was kept up. It did miss the allure of the TV series, mostly with the other characters, but this once again proves Gervais’s success, not just as a writer, but as an actor and I have to say he is up there with the best. Gervais does awkward well and the range of his emotions in his performance is so natural, it is beautiful to watch and adds to the gawkiness of the situation.
With the same old Brent comes a new “office” and new characters. Strong support came in many comedic guises from Jo Hartley, Andrew Brooke and Tom Bennett as well as cameos from Kevin Bishop and Roisin Conaty. It is the performance of comedian and rapper, Doc Brown that really makes this work. He adds the “Gareth” element to the movie and is the source of much of those moments where you just want to shove your fist into your mouth for Brent.
Despite bringing the majority of it on himself, you cannot help but feel sorry for David Brent which again is credit to the writing. Leaving you laughing one minute and then wanting to go for a beer and putting your arm around him the next.
It will never be as strong as “The Office”, but it holds the appeal. Having watched it once, you will find yourself drawn back to it, wanting to watch it again and again. And again.
Director: Clint Eastwood
In January 2009 the headlines were dominated by the footage of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in New York. The airline had suffered from engine damage not long after taking off when a flock of birds flew into the engines forcing the landing. There wasn’t enough time to turn the plane around and land on one of the available runways, so pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had no choice but to crash land the plane on the famous river saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board.
Clint Eastwood’s film focuses on the story surrounding the aftermath of the incident as an inquest is held with the firm belief that the plane could have turned and landed at a nearby airport avoiding the need to crash and destroy the airline. Sully discovers that he doesn’t just have to deal with the nightmares of the incident that begin to dominate his life, but the accusations made against him which question his 42 year career as a pilot.
The film is based on the autobiography “Highest Duty” written by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow and is cleverly patterned with the integration of sequences which highlight the effects that the incident had on Sully, despite his hero status. Tom Hanks takes the lead role of Sully complete with white hair and moustache and it is extremely difficult to tell the real Sully from the actor. Hanks, as always, gives a performance of such magnitude that it is no surprise that he is ranked as one of the world’s best actors, but he does so in a manner which seems so easy for him to portray. The subtle nature of his mannerisms are magnetised to an Oscar worthy performance once again, but, as the story suggests, he isn’t the only hero. Aaron Eckhart plays the role of First Officer Jeff Skiles who, alongside Hanks, really brings out a performance of true talent offering some of the movies more comedic moments, but also displaying the support and friendship he had with Sully. Laura Linney plays the role of Sully’s wife and despite the two sharing no screen time, she plays the fact that she has to try and struggle to support her husband from a distance encouragingly well.
The scene of the plane crash landing and the subsequent panic that follows is up there with some of Hollywood’s finest moments and Eastwood really encapsulates on the tension, despite us all knowing the outcome. Away from the action, it really is the story of what happens next that draws the interest in the movie and the experience and knowledge that Sully had which he uses to defend himself. The fact that he could be even questioned on his actions was ludicrous enough and he earns his stature as a hero with great modesty and shares the wealth with those alongside him.
With the announcement of the 2017 Oscar nominations just weeks away, there is no doubt that this will be up there among the contenders and, even possibly, earn the famous golden statue in the process.