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Non-Review Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children works best when it serves as a vehicle for Tim Burton’s imagination, exploring a world where tall tales seem to be real and monsters manifest themselves literally, where trauma and loss are explained through escape into fantasy, and where shadows distort and bend into uncanny shapes as if to suggest that there is so much more to this world than it might first appear. This is all stock Burton imagery, but the director approaches it with an endearing energy.

Unfortunately, there is more to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The film is not content to play as broad Burton fantasy of childhood mythmaking and coming of age. Despite an opening act that hints at something of a young adult follow-up to Big Fish, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children inevitably gets bogged down in the finer trappings of its young adult source material. Exposition is ladled on, rival orders are established, sequels are set up, familiar plot beats are not so much hit as hammered.

Movie night.

Movie night.

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Non-Review Review: 300 – Rise of an Empire

It is almost immediately apparent that 300: Rise of an Empire was not directed by Zack Snyder. Snyder is credited on the inter-quel’s screenplay, but Rise of an Empire is directed by Noam Murro. Murro’s only other feature-length directorial credit is the forgotten indie movie Smart People, which would hardly make a case for Murro as an obvious choice to succeed Snyder in the director’s chair.

300 was a lavish and rich (and surprisingly shrewd) visual feast – packed with iconic imagery and memorable mosaics, treating it’s muscle-bound stars as props for epic spectacle while casting a knowing look out at the audience. Rise of an Empire feels like an attempt at imitation rather than innovation – with a sense that Murro isn’t bold enough to put his own stamp on the film, instead trying to channel one of the most unique voices currently working in action movies.

Slice o' life...

Slice o’ life…

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Doctor Who: Cold Blood (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Cold Blood originally aired in 2010.

It is the story of our past and must never be forgotten.

– Eldane attempts to justify the “traditional monster” two-parters the revived show is so fond of

The Hungry Earth wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t great. There was nothing too exciting or novel about it, but it wasn’t a complete failure. It was an interesting and affectionate throwback to an older style of Doctor Who. It wasn’t exceptional, but it was -broadly speaking – functional. Chris Chibnell’s script had some rough edges, mostly around characterisation, but there was nothing too unworkable about the premise, which basically consisted of a selection of classic Doctor Who tropes thrown in a blender and served up to the audience.

However, Cold Blood is much less satisfying. Part of that is because it’s part of a story that can’t be sustained by nostalgia or affectionate references to tales long past. There’s also the fact that it hinges on an emotional climax that asks us to invest in an especially two-dimensional supporting cast. And that’s saying nothing about how the last few minutes of the episode aren’t even devoted to tying up its own threads so much as playing into the much more interesting season-long arc.

Cold Blood leaves me… well, cold.

Doesn't scan...

Doesn’t scan…

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Non-Review Review: Dark Shadows

I really liked Dark Shadows. Of course, the film comes with the proviso that it’s probably nothing at all like anybody is expecting, at least based on the trailers. While there are elements of a comedy about a vampire lost in time, Tim Burton is far too busy constructing an elaborate spoof of a gothic melodrama to every really develop that thread. Instead, it’s a movie that seems wry and self-aware more than it is side-splittingly hilarious, an old-fashioned homage to the melodramatic horrors of old rather than a compelling story in its own right. I don’t think anybody could argue that this is truly “classic” Burton, measured against Ed Wood or Batman Returns. However, it is a director who seems to be having a great deal of fun playing with some rather esoteric toys.

Collins family values…

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Non-Review Review: Casino Royale

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Casino Royale was breath of fresh air for the Bond franchise. The twenty-first film in the series, it represented something akin to a “back to basics” philosophy, pulling back from the camp excesses of Die Another Day to offer us a version of Bond which was a thriller rather than an action comedy. It’s a familiar pattern for low-key entries to follow over-the-top instalments (after all, the producers followed Moonraker with For Your Eyes Only), but arguably not to the same extent. While other movies made the pretense of operating within the same continuity (with numerous references, for example, to Bond’s marriage from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), Casino Royale was an attempt to completely start from scratch, with a new actor playing a James Bond who was new to his 00-agent status.

What’s on the cards for Bond?

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