Movie Review: “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Ella Purnell, Terrence Stamp, Judi Dench, Chris O’Dowd
Tim Burton

Author Ransom Riggs’ “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is right up director Tim Burton‘s alley. Riggs’ story is about a loner trying to find his place in the world – a story that the filmmaker behind “Edward Scissorhands,” “Big Fish” and “Ed Wood” is certainly no stranger to. It should come as no surprise, then, that Burton works up some small, charming wonders with this heartfelt piece of spectacle.

Jake’s (Asa Butterfield) grandfather, Abraham Portman (Terence Stamp), was a great man – an adventurer and soldier who battled fantastical beasts. These stories, according to Jake’s dad (Chris O’Dowd) and everyone else at school, were nothing but fairytales and lies, so Jake stopped believing they were real a long time ago. One night, the teenager goes to visit his grandfather and discovers his body outside the house with his eyes removed. Although everyone tells Jake that he’s crazy for supposedly seeing the mystery man and beast that ripped out his grandfather’s eyes, he wants answers. Remembering the stories his grandfather told him, Jake goes searching for Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine (Eva Green) and her orphanage for peculiar children in Wales, where he uncovers a “loop” created by Miss Peregrine that allows her and the children to live the same day in the 1940s over and over again. Later on, a threatening figure played by Samuel L. Jackson enters the picture, but up until then, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” is a character-driven tale with a nicely intimate scope.

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Movie Review: “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”

Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Jamie King
Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez bring the long-awaited “Sin City” sequel to audiences after nearly a decade’s absence. Unfortunately, “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” proves that no matter how many clouds and thunder you put on a screen, it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. The characters are engaging, the over-the-top violence is there in spades, but the magic that made fans scream for a sequel is somewhere between the pages of the graphic novel and the cutting room floor.

Everyone’s favorite jawline with muscles, Marv (Mickey Rourke), is back in full noir fashion. The film opens with him awakening to no memory of the cool trenchcoat he’s wearing and the not-so-cool injuries that came with it. Before he can put things together, he witnesses a guy being set afire by a bunch of frat boys. He teaches them a lesson that they’ll never forget in this world or the next. Just as in 2005’s “Sin City,” Marv is willing to nearly kill himself to bring people to justice. Although seemingly indestructible, he racks up scars by the dozens. Of course, with the six inches of prosthetics Rourke wears on his face, it starts to grow on you.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins the cast as the unstoppable gambler, Johnny. Levitt is continuing to fuel an argument as being one of the most versatile young actors in Hollywood. Expect this performance to only add to that. As the slick-talking Johnny, it’s easy to believe that he can do no wrong. He’s a suited force of nature, emptying slot machines almost without pulling the handle. But Johnny boy has his eyes on the sinister Senator Roark (Powers Boothe), and as bad guys go, Roark takes the cake and smashes you in the face with it. He doesn’t suffer fools or losing lightly and quickly shows Johnny why he’s feared by almost everyone with a pulse. Another guy on the wrong end of Roark is Dwight (Josh Brolin), a private investigator who uses his fists to get to the bottom of a case, especially when it’s involving a damsel in distress. And this particular damsel is the titular dame to die for: Ava Ford (Eva Green).

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Movie Review: “300: Rise of an Empire”

Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Headey, Jack O’Connell
Noam Murro

There is only one woman who doesn’t end up raped or murdered. The ones who are spared rape – presumably, anyway; for all we know, they were raped before we witness their deaths – are nearly all slaughtered while topless. Far be it from me to sound like a feminist, but there are parts of “300: Rise of an Empire” that are disturbing on a number of levels. Zack Snyder, who opted not to direct the follow-up to his 2006 smash “300” but co-wrote the screenplay, will likely argue that these were dark days, and heinous crimes were committed, and we will not debate either point. However, when all of the naked victims are ‘D’ cups, it sends a mixed message, to say the least.

The story takes place at the same time as “300” (give or take a few days) and takes a boatload of exposition to explain, as Athenian warrior Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) leads a small but tough group of men to battle against the invading Persian army. Much like his brother in arms King Leonidas, Themistocles and his battalion stun the Persians, and Themistocles even manages to kill Persian King Darius, who arrogantly attended the attack thinking he was untouchable. Unfortunately for Greece, Darius’ death opens the door for Darius’ ruthless naval commander Artemisia (Eva Green) to persuade heir to the throne Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) to resist his father’s death-bed plea for peace and to instead bury Greece. Why is Artemisia so bent on Greece’s destruction? She is Greek herself, and is seeking revenge for the injustices done to her and her family by Greek forces when she was a girl.

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