Saturday, December 31, 2016


 Mia (Emma Stone) has been trying to break into acting for four years, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a frustrated, overly-idealistic jazz musician who is paying the bills playing restaurants. Mia and Sebastian meet, flirt, and after singing a few songs become a couple. They discuss their frustrated dreams and try to inspire each other keep trying to be successful in acting or music. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: LA LA LAnd is a musical with some good songs and earnest storytelling. The songs are spotty: there are good ones like the opening song on the freeway, and less good ones like Mia's audition for the French film. It's always interesting, but the drama is not dramatic enough, and the songs are not fun enough.

I like musicals, like 2015's Into the Woods or 2012's Les Miserables. I loved Evita (2006) or Moulin Rouge (2001). Musicals can be fun and imaginative.

The photography and art direction are great. There are some great images. Emma Stone's looks great in her stylish retro dresses. We get great images and dispense with the realism, which is fine with me.

Emma Stone has some great facial acting, and Ryan Gosling is OK, but not as good. The other supporting actors are not well developed, but they do get to sing and dance.

There is a part where the screen goes black, so we can concentrate on the audio. I thought that was effective. It was foreshadowed earlier in the film when a film stopped in a theater where Mia and Sebastian were.

The best part is that LA LA LAnd is different and fresh. It is strong on style, but the conventional drama of the story is a little weak. 

Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

Written and directed by:
Damien Chazelle

The Music:
It's a musical, and its all about music. Most of the songs are show tunes with additional piano and jazz instrumental music. 

The Visuals:
Very stylish photography throughout. Great images.

3.0 stars: a 2.5 star movie with an extra half star for the visual style and imagination. Not fun enough for 3.5. It will make my 2016 top ten list.

More: Writer-director Damien Chazelle made the music-oriented and very intense Whiplash in 2014. This is his third movie.

SPOILER - Even More: People are too cynical for a happy ending. Mia can't live happily ever after with Sebastian because our depressed zeitgeist. Chazelle gives us the happy ending as a dream sequence and a wan, tired smile across a crowded room as the real ending.

I liked this ending.

I am also happy that Mia and Sebastian both get satisfaction in their artistic lives too. I wonder how realistic that is.



Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Plot: Jyn Erso's (Felicity Jones) father was pressed into service building the Death Star, and he had Jyn raised by a friend, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). When she grows up,  her father wants to see her, and the rebels try to take her to him. On the way, she makes friends with the rebels especially Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and robot K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Because this is a prequel to "A New Hope," it is not a spoiler to say that the team steals the plans, and transmits them to Princess Leah's ship.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: I liked it. It is a fresh story but it has all the familiar elements from the original Star Wars movies. The characters are clearly motivated, and the bad guys are characters we know already. When the battles come, they are grittier and smarter versions of the battles in the original movies. The special effects are non-stop perfect, and the art direction is inspired and detailed.

Rogue One is dark. No jokes or funny robots. Very little smiling. It is a tragedy and that means a sad ending. The worst part of the movie is the sad ending.

I liked the performances by Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker and Diego Luna. They were much more concerned about people than about their technology, and I liked that. The humanity of the characters made the story better.

 I also liked Donnie Yen who played a blind monk who kept chanting "I am one with the force and the force is with me." I am sure he will inspire of a generation of Force-oriented mystics.

The battle scenes at the end seemed long, and while I could follow it all, the fighting not the most interesting part. 

Cast: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

Directed by:
Gareth Edwards

Written by:
Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta

The Music:
Orchestral music with a nice majestic feeling like John Williams'

The Visuals:
All top notch

3.5 stars: A good movie; fun to watch, but dark and with a sad ending. I want to see it again. 

More: Director Edwards as a young man made a trip to Tunisia (where the Tatooine scenes were filmed) with food coloring so he could drink blue milk like Luke Skyworker. He was and probably still is a real fan.

Even More: Jyn Erso: We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

Lee (Casey Affleck) feels guilty and responsible for a past tragedy, so he is angry and depressed. When his brother dies, he goes back to Manchester for the burial. His brother left his 16 year son Joe (Kyle Chandler) in Lee's care, and this causes Lee to move back to Manchester and all tragic old memories. Joe and Lee have many sharp worded arguments. He encounters his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) at the funeral and later around town.

Review: The film is all about Lee and his depression about the tragedy (that I am not going to spoil.) Lee can't forget and never learns to cope. The film is tragic because it is not a redemption or come-back or healing story. At the end, I wondered, why did the movie end here?

Manchester by the Sea has a core pessimism, and perhaps that fits the national zeitgeist -- leading to its surprising popularity.

Casey Affleck's performance is the highlight thoughout -- playing the broody and boiling Lee with intensity and sadness. There is snappy dialog with Joe, but young Kyle Chandler isn't up to the role and he sounds like a 40 year old scriptwriter. Joe isn't fully realized, but he challenges Joe just like the internal voices of his younger self might have. Joe does provides the few moments of levity -- primarily involving attempting sex with his girl friends.

The end is the least satisfying part. It does not resolve Lee's central issues, and his life will become much like it was at the beginning. Manchester by the Sea is a fictional story where a writer has concocted all the characters and all the plot twists, I expect the writer's message to be embedded inside. I don't find one here: just a cold, stormy reality -- just like all those wintery seascapes director Lonergan shows us. The message is that life sucks, and while people can fight it, in the end life still sucks.

"Why did the movie end where it did?" The answer is that it could have ended anywhere, because just like Godot nothing ever is going to change. If Manchester by the Sea has a message for this modern age, it is an icy, windy, bleak seascape. 

Cast: Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler

Written and directed by:
Kenneth Lonergan

The Music:
Simple minimal music by Lesley Barber mixed with orchestral classics

The Visuals:
Many photos of the ocean, the harbor, and sea birds. Few special effects.

3.0 stars: Worthwhile and with deep characters. 

More: After the election, I read that this is an age for the Black Madonna -- not the pop star Marea Stamper or Kanye West -- rather the 12 Century European original. A dark faced woman who embodied the tragedy of the plague and the descent in to ignorance. The Pope is planning to visit her shrine on his trip to Poland.

New age pantheists link her to the Hindu goddess Kali, who is called the dark mother and associated with destruction & doomsday.



Saturday, December 10, 2016

Miss Sloane

Plot: Miss Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a high powered lobbyist working on a high-profile gun control law. She steam-rolls over obstacles as she fights the NRA. It shows the fast-moving tough and strategic moves of the competing lobbyists. Miss Sloane is tough and not encumbered by morality. At the darkest moment, there is a twist ending.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: The character of Miss Sloane is so restless, confident, and relentless that she is fun to watch. She is the smartest and the most hard-working. Jessica Chastain is fun to watch as she plays this over-the-top tough girl.

Miss Sloane is a sort-of superhero of Washington -- a supernatural lobbyist. Instead of bashing buildings, the battles on TV new shows, and they sling twisted half-truths at each other. Their weapons are dirty tricks and media theater. I thought this was great. Wife Jenny thought some of this was dull -- guess that is why smashing buildings is more popular -- easier to understand.

Even before I looked it up, I knew the character was written by a man. She is the male vision of the perfect woman: exactly like a man except in a pretty body. She is tough, and strong, and bold, and smart, and resolute, and pretty-much exactly like the male hero ideal -- except she is a sexy girl too. Like Lara Croft. Would a realistic female hero really be seeing prostitutes?

All the talk in the press about Miss Sloane being a new kind of hero is ironic in that way. In the movies press, director Madden says the opposite that usually male heroes are this dark and flawed.

Angelina Jolie's character in salt was originally written as a male. Would this movie have been as good if the genders were reversed?  Probably -- the clever plotting was the interesting part. Miss Sloane really didn't have any female characteristics or gendered back-story that motivated her. If there was a difference, it was the Miss Sloane was a-social or even anti-social -- she would double cross people and trick people to win. She was such an individualist or even sociopath.

In the radical feminist mindset, there isn't a difference between genders and a hero is a hero, for example Katy Ledecki swims like male swimmers, because all superfast olympic swimmers swim in the same way. In this sense Miss Sloane is the evolution of androgynous amorality. Probably not a role model for anyone -- although Miss Sloane is more Leaned In than anyone else.

Having said that, it was fun to watch. I liked it.

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Strong, John Lithgow

Directed by:
John Madden

Written by: Jonathan Perera

The Visuals:
No special effects. Some nice facial shots. 

3.0 stars: Good story. Nice twist ending. 

More: Jessica Chastain describes her character like this: “It’s an ambitious, over-prepared, one-step-ahead-of-you woman that actually mentors other women and takes them under her wing. Elizabeth Sloane operates at a much faster engine than I do…” link
Even More: Writer Perera said this: “It seemed like very fertile ground for a script. We’ve seen the politicians front-and-center in shows like ‘The West Wing’ and various movies as well. What we haven’t seen are the power-players behind the scenes, trading in influence, pulling the strings…”





Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen

Plot: High school Junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) has a party while her Mom (Kyra Sedgewick) was away, and her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) hooks up with her brother Darian (Blake Jenner). Nadine hates her brother and then gets in a fight with Krista -- leaving Nadine friendless in high school. Nadine is in a social pickle and only nerdy Erwin (Hayden Szeto) pays any attention to her.. As Nadine considers suicide, she confides in teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson). Nadine is her own worst enemy, and her situation only gets worse -- until the twist at the end.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Edge of Seventeen is a drama about the intense relationships between high schoolers. It is a dialog-driven drama like Juno or Perks of Being a Wallflower, and while there is some sitcom humor, it isn't a comedy. The tension is in the mind of Nadine with extra tension from her Mom's head.

The dialog is clever without being too forced, and the elements of plot are conversations where Nadine says something that turns the screw on her social situation.

Hailee Steinfeld does an outstanding job with the subtle emotions, and writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig's script is the other star. Clever social observations overlaid with Nadine's hopelessness are delivered in a snappy and interesting way. Nadine's insults are especially good. Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig needs to make more movies.

I really liked this film. I like getting into other people's heads, and I like complicated and twisted situations. There is a theme about death and loss, but most is about being a social misfit. Even though it is about high school, it is not only for high schoolers, because people are so complicated.

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Kyra Sedgewick, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson

Directed and written by:
Kelly Fremon Craig

The Music:
Pop songs with a score by Atli Oovarsson

3.5 stars: I liked it a lot. It would be fun to see again.

More: Writer Craig said she just wanted to capture what it is like to be seventeen. Producer Brooks said the voice is so specific to you (Craig), that you are the only person to direct it.

Even More: This is the first major project for writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig. Looking for more from her.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Plot: In 1920's New York, wizard zoologist Newt (Eddie Redmayne) arrives on a ship from London with a suitcase magically-filled with magic animals/monsters. One animal escapes and while trying to catch it the suitcase ends up with aspiring baker Kowalski (Dan Fogler), and then more animals escape. The chaos attracts the attention of Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Graves (Colin Farrell) who are like magic police, as well as Chastity Barebone, who is a feverish political opponent of magic.  Tina and her sister Queen (Alison Sudol) and Kowalski help Newt capture the animals and satisfy the authorities. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Fantastic Beasts is a lot of fun. I enjoyed seeing a  new take on JK Rowling's magical world.

I liked the personalities of all four main actors, Redmayne, Waterston, Sudol and Fogler. Redmayne is full of emotion. Waterston seems serious and coy. Sudol had a great flirting scene and her mind reading scenes were funny. Fogler starts out so stiff, and is lovable by the end.

The basic story is catching the monsters, but it is paced out by the introduction of all the characters and interludes where we get to know the  monsters -- primarily to foreshadow the more lively action later.

At the end there are several subplots planted for the sequels -- if you are already looking forward to the sequels as I am, these are valuable clues. If not, then these are fluff not contributing to the drama.

Rowlings magical universe in the US has different politics than in England. Here the witches are more oppressed and egalitarian, without the class distinctions that were the major theme of Harry Potter.

I liked how the main monster of the story was an incarnation of the repression traumatic events and denying ones identity, so the psychological evil becomes physical evil. Unlike some summer thrillers, there is a clear political and sociological message being sent in the construction of the story. In this season of Trump, the cross-cultural themes may be more timely or more controversial. 

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell

Directed by:
David Yates

Story and screenplay by: JK Rowling

The Music:
Orchestral music by James Newton Howard

The Visuals:
Some top 1920's era visuals, and some of the smaller monsters were cool. The interior of the Magical Congress Building was cool. I did not care for the big monsters.

3.0 stars: Fun to watch. Good acting. Interesting story, but thrilling.

More: This is the first of five Fantastic Beast films.

Even More: There is no novel, but there is a screen-play, which I have not bought because I have a new novel I am working on, but maybe over Christmas.


Saturday, November 12, 2016


Plot: Linguistics Professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited to translate after alien spaceships arrive. She and physicist Ian Jeremy Renner try to figure out why the aliens have come. They go on the spaceship and talk though a glass wall to the aliens. Meanwhile other countries are demanding answers and threatening military action. Intercut with the interrogation are scenes of Louise with her daughter growing up. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Arrival is a well-crafted thriller with a big twist at the end -- twist with enough clues that a clever viewer could figure it out.

While it is a science fiction movie, the action is between the humans and the aliens stay on their ships. The plot spools out slowly, but there is enough emotional energy to keep us invested. There are three subplots, the puzzle of translating, the politics with the generals, and the relationship with the daughter.

The puzzle of translating with aliens is an interesting problem, and it is fun to see them wrestle with it. I would have tried flashcards.

Amy Adams' acting is great -- she always has a subtle expression on her face. Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker are also good. 
I may watch it again when it comes to TV to find all the clues foreshadowing the twist.

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Directed by:
Tom Ford

Based on the short story by: Ted Chiang; screenplay by Eric Heisserer who added the multiple landing sites and political dimension.

The Music:
It's an electronica/world music soundtrack with many some whale song too. I liked the track Kangaru enough to buy it. 

The Visuals:
There are several stylish visuals, but few Sci-Fi action scenes. I thought the aliens looked believable enough. I did not believe that anyone could write with octopus ink however.

3.0 stars: well acted; nice twist in the plot

More: I want to know if a dictionary of alien symbols is available -- it does not seem to be.

Even More: Arrival was made by a consortium of independent studios because it was such a non-traditional story.



Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dr Strange

Plot: Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant New York surgeon who wrecks his hands in a car accident and then gets depressed. He goes to Katmandu to find an Eastern Medicine cure and meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). After a tough introduction he begins studying to be become a sorcerer, along with Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Ancient One and crew keep busy fighting off magical bad guys. Soon Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) shows up to about destroy three key temples, and let the earth be devoured by another dimension. Strange picks up some magic weapons and goes off to battle Kaecilius leading to a twist at the end.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Director Derrickson spends a lot of time setting up the Dr Strange character, the relationship with his gal pal Christine (Rachel McAdams), Mordo and Ancient One. The casting of Tilda Swinton was controversial in part because she is white, but also a non-traditional hero and not physically imposing. We see her fighting in magic battles and she believably wields her magic weapons.

The battles themselves are feasts of special effects with mirror planes and sliding objects and buildings turned into gears. Very creative and fun to watch, and a refreshing change from every other action movie.

There is a nice scene at the end between Cumberbatch and Swinton where they quietly talk about death. In other parts they talk about the right thing to do sometimes isn't the legal thing, rather like Utilitarian ethics vs Deontological ethics. Earlier in the movie we get Stan Lee's quick survey of Hinduism as Ancient One starts to tutor Strange. There is actually something in this movie for people who read books.

Highlights were the outstanding world folding special effects --just like Inception but with 6 years better technology. I liked the chemistry between Cumberbatch and McAdams especially early at the hospital. I liked Cumberbatch's acting and most of the other actors too, including Swinton. 

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams

Directed by:
Scott Derrickson

Based on the comics by: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and others 

The Music:
Interesting orchestral music with a baroque flavor by Michael Giancchino. I bought the end credit track which Jenny and I have been playing on repeat. It is harpsichord electronica. 

The Visuals:
 Top notch. Some nice art direction in the sets -- like the brickwork in the walls, or the drawer full of watches.

4.0 stars: I liked it. Fun to watch. Good chemistry between the characters and good acting. Interesting ideas too. 

More: MAJOR SPOILER: Instead of a major battle at the end Dr Strange negotiates with a deity to save the world; so unlike every other superhero movie ever made, this film does not end in a massive fight where the main villain never seems to die. It almost deserves 4 stars just for this twist ending.

Even More: Like all Marvel movies, this one ends with teasers during the credits. In the first we see Thor talking about Loki coming to earth. In the second, we see Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) taking magic powers away from a minor character and setting himself up as the villain in the next Dr. Strange movie.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pete's Dragon (2016, 2D)

Plot: Pete's parents are killed in a car accident in the forest, and only Pete (Oakes Fegley) survives. Lucky for him he is found by a big, friendly dragon named Elliot. 5-year-old Pete lives in the woods for 5 years with Elliot, when he is found by Natalie (Oona Laurance) and her forest ranger Mom Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). Back in town, Pete doesn't like civilization and worries about Elliot. Pete's fears are realized when Elliot gets discovered by some lumbermen. A few plot twists later there is a happy ending.  [imdb]    [photos]

The photo on the German poster better captures the mood. 
Review: This is a younger child's movie without much cross-over appeal for adults. It is relentlessly sincere, and I admire that because jaded, winking sarcasm is too common in pop culture, and even in kid's movies.

For someone like myself, Pete's Dragon was painfully slow moving, and I let myself doze off.

Bryce Dallas Howard had the best performance and was the heart of the movie. Robert Redford didn't add anything. Often child actors aren't gifted enough to carry a subtle story, and Oakes didn't measure up, though Oona showed us meaningful facial expressions. 

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard

Directed by: Dave Lowery -- his first effort at directing a movie. 

The Music: The music carries the mood during the vast wordless sequences. OK, but not stirring.

The Visuals: Great animation of the hair on Elliot. For the most part, he looked like he really was in the forest. There was a scene where he was flying into the sun, and the dragon looked like he was pasted on a photograph, but mostly it was good. The dragon's had big-eyed stare that was supposed to be friendly and heart warming like a friendly puppy, but went on too long until the illusion of face breaks down into a collection of stuff-animal parts. 

Rating: 1 star: though a kid under ten might like it. 

More: Reminds me so much of The Never Ending Story, especially the furry doglike flying dragon.




Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Accountant

US Poster: Look he is eating lunch
European Poster: A little bit different!

Plot: Underworld accountant Christian Wolfe (Ben Affleck) takes a legit job to investigate an irregularity at Living Robotics, a Tech Start-up getting ready to IPO. Christian works with the firm's accountant, Dana (Anna Kendrick), and solves the problem in 2-3 days because he is that good. Turns out the owners don't want the fraud on their books to get out, so they hire hitmen to kill Christian and Dana. Now, we see his other side where he fires high powered sniper rifles and practices exotic mental and pain-conditioning exercises every night. When the hitmen come Christian has surprisingly prepared, and then he drives off to save Dana.

Meanwhile FBI director Ray King (JK Simmons) backmails analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robbinson) into investigating the unknown (to them) underworld accountant. Marybeth works day and night searching, but eventually tracks down his current alias and apartment.

The Accountant concludes with superhero action as Christian chases down the evildoers followed by a twist at the end.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: The Accountant is a thriller with a high body count -- nothing like The Big Short. The first two thirds of the movie are great. I loved the character's backstory and I loved the problem solving aspect of the accounting problem. It's fascinating how Christian hid his tracks, and how he lives with his Asperger's. Everything changes when Christian goes from defense to offense 2/3 of way through; the movie dumbs down and our clever accountant becomes another Ethan Hunt.

The character of the Accountant is deep and interesting to learn about. It combines an Asperger-type dedication to order in the form of financial accounting with a rigid discipline for safety, security and weapons. We see how his father and his teachers tried to help him, and the unusual childhood he had. There is a bit about how Asperger people can cope with their condition.

Anna Kendrick's character, Dana, has a fairly small role, but she does a nice job with it. Her facial acting has so much expression here just like she did in Up in the Air.

There is a separate story with the FBI. Director King blackmails Marybeth into the taking case, as a device to explain her backstory and make us sympathize with her. There is a whole term paper in the identity of FBI analyst Marybeth Medina. She is not just any super high-achieving, striving, young FBI agent, but also an Hispanic ex-con, add to that that actress Addai-Robinson is a black, born in England with a fine-arts background. She starts out idealistic, and we see that by the end, she is lying to the press -- just like Director King does.

In summary, the characters are powerful and well-drawn. This plot could easily have been a prestige television series, where it would have had time to play out its potential.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robbinson, 

Directed by:
Gavin O'Conner

Written by: Bill Dubuque

The Music:
Jazz by Mark Isham; pretty good, not very noticeable during most of the movie. 

The Visuals:
Solid special effects. I liked the art direction of the numbers in the conference room. 

2.5 stars: I really liked the characters and the acting was good. On the other hand, the story is just a story without any social or human message. It was fun-to-watch in parts, but the shooting got old. Not so fond of the end either. 


More: The scenes where he plays hard rock and beats his shins are Thai martial arts. They are to deaden the nerves of the shin. I don't recall fights involving the shins, but perhaps I'd notice if I saw the movie again. The flashing lights and music were intended to desensitize him to his Asperger-like aversion to stimulus.

Even More: Director O'Conner is open to a sequel. I'd like to see a mini-series.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Girl on the Train

Plot: Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the train every day to New York, and watches the people she sees from the window. She is obsessed with a young couple she does not know from her old neighborhood. One day she sees the woman, Megan (Haley Bennett) kissing a man Kamal (Edgar Ramirez) -- not her husband Scott (Luke Evans), and very soon the Megan is missing, and soon after that found dead in the near-by woods.

When Rachel is not riding the train, she gets drunk and sometimes stalks her ex-husband Tom's (Justin Theroux) house, where he lives with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). During this period, she woke up bloody and with a black-out of memory. Detective Riley (Allison Janney) suspects her but lacks evidence. Slowly Rachel pieces together what happened that night, and the relationships between Tom, Megan, Kamal, Anna and herself. After snake-like plot twists the villain is revealed.   [imdb]    [photos]

Review: It's a great psychological thriller and a Who-Dun-It. Emily Blunt's Rachel is unstable and maybe crazy, but how crazy and is she dangerous? What happened when she was blacked out, and whose blood was that on her?

We watch Rachel's life devolve even as she obsessively pieces together the backstory of Megan's murder.

I liked all of it. I liked Emily Blunt's depressed affect, the low key detective Riley, jealous new wife Anna and her protective relationship with the baby. It is a great movie that they don't make enough of. The best part is the complex relationships between the characters and the complex strategies that they play between each other on the personal and emotional plane.

It is a complicated story that is easier to follow in the movie than in the book. I liked the book, but I liked the movie better because Rachel's emotions are darker and crazier, and because the twists at the end are easier to follow. 

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Edgar Ramirez, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez. 

Directed by:
Tate Taylor

Written by: Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins

The Music:
Moody orchestral music by Danny Elfman

The Visuals:
Solid visuals of the train, some clever interior shots with the actors, a few interesting paintings on the sets

4.0 stars: Fun acting by Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, and nearly everyone else. A great story told clearly. Dramatic and dark. They should make more movies like this. 


More: Critics who say the story is predictable are nuts. I read the book, and I still found the ending surprising. I think it is great.

Even More: Its the moody darkness fits the national zeitgeist.




Saturday, October 8, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 3D

 Plot: Jake's (Asa Butterfield) beloved Grandfather used to tell him stories about a Miss Peregrine's boarding school with strange and magical children -- just like Prof X's school but with younger students. After Grandpa dies, Jake goes to the site of the now ruined school, and is magically transported to 1943 during the Nazi bombing of this island in Wales. Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), runs a tight ship at the school, and she has cast a spell to keep time from passing, and to keep the school hidden from the monstrous Holos and their magical master Barron (Samuel L Jackson.)
Barron and his Cronies want to kill the children and eat their eyes to attain immortality. Jake is attracted to the cute Emma (Ella Purnell), and so he evades his father to spend time there, just when Barron arrives to capture Miss Peregrine and kill the children. After initial escape, Jake and friends battle Barron and the Holos until the unavoidable ending.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Weird and creepy, this halloween-like fantasy adventure is too creepy for kids, yet still a little juvenile for me. The creepy parts, especially the bad guys eating eyeballs, is really creepy. The monsters were scary, and the overall vibe was creepy. The story starts slow and a little bit sleepy, but eventually we meet the kids and figure out how peculiar they are.

The best acting was from Eva Green, who is marvelous as the tough and mysterious Miss Peregrine. Loved it.  Samuel L Jackson's Barron is mercurial, strange and menacing -- great acting. Asa Butterfield starts out slow and never musters the emotion to energize the role. I never thought was realistically flirting with Emma (Ella Purnell) -- let alone in love with her. None of the children were very good, except for Finley MacMillan's Enoch, who was brooding & creepy.

The art direction was a highlight too especially the ghost ship; sometimes it got juvenile, for example the battle with the skeletons. The Hollows eating a feast of eyeballs is unforgettable. Nightmarish.

This is a fantasy, so the story is necessarily a bit silly -- this is no different. I don't hold that against it.

Overall, it was fun, after a slow start.

Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L Jackson, Ella Purnell

Directed by:
Tim Burton

Based on the book by: Ransom Riggs

The Music:
Not memorable.

The Visuals:
Great. I saw it in 3D. It has some great images. 

2.5 stars:  Great visuals. Could have used better young actors. 


More: I am interested in reading the books.

Even More: Tim Burton is just the guy for a nightmare story like this.