CVIndependent

Sun03292020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

Holy hell, is this film a boring mess.

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton directs a leaden Asa Butterfield in an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ novel. The movie is sloppy, as if the effects weren’t completed. The story is convoluted, as if the filmmakers thought hiring a big-time art director and costuming department were a fair swap for a good script.

The narrative involves some nonsense regarding mutant children in a house in the 1940s that is stuck in a time loop. The house is led by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, the only good thing about the movie), and visited by young Jake (Butterfield), who heard about the place from his late grandfather (Terence Stamp). The kids all have “peculiarities” but no personality; they are X-Men with no sense of purpose.

Butterfield, a normally reliable young actor, decimates nearly every line he utters in this film. It’s actually quite shocking how inept and lost he seems in this production.

Burton stresses the visuals, as usual, but without a good, strong lead like Johnny Depp or Michael Keaton, Burton is a lost cause. I’m thinking this will hang tough as one of the year’s biggest disappointments.

Samuel L. Jackson does show up with a gray version of his wig from Unbreakable, along with Venom’s teeth. He has his moments, but he can’t save this thing.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is now playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

It feels like writer-director Robert Rodriguez delivered the first Sin City a million years ago.

However, it was just nine years ago, back in 2005. Rodriguez was reaching the apex of his creative strengths, making good movies for relatively small budgets and doing much of the work himself. Sin City was truly groundbreaking; it was preceded by fine films like Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the first three Spy Kids movies (two of which were really good) and, my personal favorite, From Dusk Till Dawn.

Since Sin City, a lot of people have been making good-looking films on reasonable budgets. Rodriguez, in the meantime, has been losing steam, with misfires like The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lavagirl 3-D, Shorts, the fourth (and truly awful) Spy Kids film and Machete Kills. Yes, he did good work with his Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror and the first Machete—but the bad has far outweighed the good.

Now comes Rodriguez’s long-in-development Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. It’s a batch of shorts based on the musings of Frank Miller—and not one of them offers anything better than the original film. It’s a tedious, worthless film from a director who seems to be running out of original ideas.

Much of the cast returns, including Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis, even though their characters died in the first movie. In the case of Rourke, his Marv segments are prequels, based on graphic novels that took place before his character got the electric chair. As for Willis … think The Sixth Sense.

Jessica Alba returns to dance provocatively (although she keeps her clothes on) as stripper Nancy, and Powers Boothe is back as the evil Senator Roark. Dennis Haysbert replaces the late Michael Clarke Duncan, and Josh Brolin steps in for Clive Owen as Dwight. Also new to the cast are Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, and Eva Green as Ava.

There are a whole lot of people driving around in black-and-white, doing those deliberately paced, film-noir voiceovers. What was once visually breathtaking has become visually blah, and none of the stories in A Dame to Kill For merit interest. The film plays like a batch of outtakes from the first movie that were slapped together and put on display.

It’s also the second time this year that Eva Green has given a spectacular, villainous performance in a film adapted from a Miller graphic novel that sucks around her (the first one being 300: Rise of an Empire). Green is the only reason to see this movie; her Ava is far more terrifying than Boothe’s deranged senator.

Gordon-Levitt seems out of place in this film; he’s way too cool and popular to be hanging around such a subpar undertaking. It’s sort of like when Bill Murray lent his voice to the Garfield movies, or Tom Hanks took a paycheck for The Da Vinci Code. It just feels wrong. Gordon-Levitt was in the running for Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla … and he winds up in this? The agent firings must commence.

For the first time in a long time, Rodriguez doesn’t have any films listed in development. Perhaps this is a good thing; maybe he needs a break. He’s better than Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill for is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

A good villain and decent visuals keep 300: Rise of an Empire from being truly awful—but in the end, it’s still a disappointment.

Noam Murro has taken over for Zack Snyder as the director of this sequel to the 2006 film (though Snyder is still around as a co-writer and producer). Murro’s take on the shirtless-ancient-warrior saga lacks any kind of dramatic tension, so the resulting film is just a bunch of boat fights mixed with people in togas emoting slowly on soundstages.

It’s a bit of a prequel to 300 in that we see the origins of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), the golden-god Persian warrior who gave Gerard Butler (who appears in reused footage from 300) such a hard time in the last film. The Xerxes prologue is easily the most compelling part of the movie; too bad it only accounts for a few minutes. Later in the film, it becomes apparent that the events of 300 are going on at the same time as the happenings in this movie, creating a Back to the Future Part II effect.

The main plot involves Greek general Themistokles, played by Sullivan Stapleton. Stapleton is basically Gerard Butler with a slightly less impressive BMI, and he’s tasked with delivering an always-determined look and shouting a lot.

The nemesis, besides Xerxes, is Artemisia, played wickedly by Eva Green. Artemisia is a memorable badass in an unmemorable film. Her character’s back story nicely explains why she just wants to kill everybody. She has a violent (and awkward) sex scene with Stapleton that I saw in 3-D IMAX. (It was my first 3-D IMAX sex scene. I felt so dirty.)

The film depicts many sea battles, with boats crashing into each other and warriors sinking to their deaths below the surface (courtesy of underwater points of view). These moments are impressive the first couple of times, but they start to blend together after a while. As a result, much of the movie’s action feels redundant.

Because Butler is off making crap movies like the Point Break remake and Olympus Has Fallen, he couldn’t be bothered to really participate in this one. Therefore, Santoro and Lena Headey (who played Butler’s wife in the first film) are left to represent the original 300. Headey gets a chance to swing a sword near the film’s end; she looks respectable while chopping people up.

The gore in this movie is quite comical, with CGI blood spurting everywhere. The action scenes range from serviceable to overkill. I did like the POV shot of Xerxes swinging his ax, as well as the shot of a soldier jumping off a wall, with the camera tracking him as he pounces on a victim.

Sadly, the cool moments wind up getting lost in a sea of repetition and diminishing returns. The ending leaves things open for another sequel, so I’m guessing we will be seeing Mr. Xerxes again.

300: Rise of an Empire is slightly better than, say, your average direct-to-video sequel or prequel. But without Butler starring and Snyder directing, the product is ultimately inferior to the first movie—and the first movie wasn’t all that great to begin with.

300: Rise of An Empire is playing in various formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews