Untimely Movie Reviews: Miss Peregrine and The Raven
One of the specialties of this blog has always been reviews of things that are well past the point of needing reviewing, since by the time I see them or write about them you’ve already made the decision to see or not the movie a long time ago, so my review had zero chance of swaying your opinion one way or another.
Actually, that’s total bullshit.
Yeah, OK, maybe some people read reviews to help determine if they’re going to see something. I myself have a few places I trust to see if a movie is worth it, but I usually don’t read them because they’re spoilery and I just glance at it quickly to see if it’s a yes or a no. But you and I both know that reading movie reviews is only fun if you’ve already seen it, and you either want to have your own views confirmed so you can nod along and be all “yeah, that movie sucked/kicked ass” and feel smug, or you want to read a review of a movie you loved/hated that hated/loved it so you get a chance to engage in our national pastime: outrage. That’s why I write these things, anyway.
So today I have a couple of movies to talk about, one of them pretty recent! Miss Peregrine’s, uh, House of… Peculiar Creatures? I think? Something like that? That sounds mostly right and I’m not looking it up. Also, 2012’s The Raven, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe. Yeah. That is a thing that exists, and I watched it.
Oh, yeah, also, SPOILERS. I mean, you’ve had a chance to see this shit, so if you get mad that I let slip that Negan killed Luke Skywalker’s father then it’s on you.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)
Yes, I looked it up. I was close!
Anyway, Miss Peregrine’s etc is a Tim Burton movie based on a series of incredibly popular novels I’ll never read. It stars… people I don’t know. I mean, there are people in it that I do know, like Eva Green as Miss Peregrine, but she’s not in it enough to be considered a “star” as opposed to “also appearing”. Seriously, this movie needed a lot more Eva Green in this, because she was awesome. Also appearing are Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson, Terrence Stamp, and Chris O’Dowd as the people you are familiar with and are also not starring in it. Well, Samuel L. Jackson is in it a bit more than the others as the main bad guy, but still. Most of it involves something called an Asa Butterfield instead of people you might know.
This movie suffers from two main problems and about 10,000 smaller ones. The first problem is that it involves time travel, which always makes for a bunch of nonsensical bullshit which we’ll get into later when I try to describe the plot, and is mostly the cause of the 10,000 smaller problems which are the plot holes that actually seem to be more prevalent than the plot itself. Like, if you took a doughnut and stretched it out to about a mile in diameter but used the same amount of dough as a regular Dunkin Donut (the worst donut of them all) – that would be the ratio of Plot Hole to Plot Donut.
The second main problem is that it’s a Tim Burton movie. Burton has made some fine movies that I adore – Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow (more on that later), Batman, Batman Returns – some that I recognize people like but I neither like nor dislike – Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare before Christmas, Ed Wood, Corpse Bride – and a pile of absolute dogshit – Peewee Herman (I know some people like this. For me it’s the equivalent of listening to Gilbert Gottfried speak), Dark Shadows, those complete piece of shit Alice in Wonderland movies, Christ he made a Willy Wonka movie that was fucking terrible, and on and on. Most of Tim Burton’s style has devolved into shtick, as everyone already knows and accepts. To make a Tim Burton movie, add lots of black and white stripes, get a lead girl with protruding round eyes (Helena Bonham-Carter, Christina Ricci, Ella Purnell), and, if you have $10 million extra dollars you just feel like dousing in kerosene and tossing matches into, Johnny Depp. Oh, and make sure everything is quirky.
Tim Burton is all over this movie, which is a problem. I got the feeling while I watched this that there was a really cool story that wanted to be told but Tim Burton just had to add layers of puffy nothing to everything, like he covered everything in cotton candy (black and white striped, of course) and called it a carnival. I’m not sure Tim Burton is capable of directing normal people having a conversation anymore. The strangest and most surreal dialogue seemed to occur when two ostensibly regular folk were talking. The scenes between Chris O’Dowd (the lead’s father) and Asa Butterfield (the main character called Jacob) are fucking unbearable. It feels like the two actors were replaced by doppelgangers who can’t act at all, and it’s all because of the horrendous dialogue and delivery. I chalk that up to Burton.
Anyway, I’ll try to summarize the plot quickly, but it barely makes sense over two hours so good luck in a paragraph. Jake (Asa Butterfield) is talking to his grandfather (Terrence Stamp) who is acting fucking weird, Jake goes to check on him and Terrence has his eyes ripped out of his head and he’s dead, Jake sees a big monster, then goes to Wales because his grandfather wanted him to along with his dad, he finds the Home from the title his grandfather always told stories about and it’s a bombed out ruin, then he is led into a cave that takes him back to the day the house gets bombed in 1943, meets Eva Green as Miss Peregrine who says exposition quirkily, finds out that MP has a house full of weird mutant kids that she protects from Samuel L Jackson by keeping them in a time loop where they live the same day over and over again, only Samuel L finds them because Jake is a dumbass, takes MP, Judi Dench shows up, says hi, and dies, the kids get chased by a monster only Jake can see (that’s his mutant power), then they raise a sunken ship from the ocean floor and sail it to I forget London or something, go through a different cave that’s set in January 2016 (or Present Year, whatever) or something, fight Samuel L and his friends, win, then the 1940’s kids go with MP to find another day to relive over and over or maybe they can now actually start to age or something, whatever, and Jake has to go back to his normal time, discovers that since he killed Samuel L in the past now his grandfather is alive again (?), then he goes back to the 1940s to find Ella Purnell because he loves her, joins the Navy for two weeks (the movie specifically lets us know that information for no reason I can decipher), finds the girl, kiss, end.
The above paragraph makes roughly 984,000 times more sense than the actual movie does.
I was going to write about the plot holes in this thing, but I’ll just point out two that illustrate my point. There are about 100 with the raised ship alone I could mention, but here are two:
- Ella and Asa are on the roof of a building about to be bombed. Ella (OK, her name is Emma in the movie, I’ll start using that) is a mutant that controls air and it therefore lighter than it, so she wears lead shoes that couldn’t look more Burtony if they were made from Johnny Depp’s face to keep her on the ground. To get away from the monster, she steps out of her shoes, grabs Jake, and they float to the ground because she’s light and not wearing her shoes, and the shoes must weigh more than Jake for that to work but whatever. They get away, the bomb goes off (and apparently has no effect on anyone literally 100 feet away), and are walking along the beach hours later when Jake hands Emma her shoes. Where the fuck did the shoes come from? If Jake was holding them, wouldn’t it have been exactly the same as if she was wearing them?
- So, they kill Samuel L in January 2016 (which is the past for Jake). The weird kids go back to 1943. Jake I guess waits in January 2016 until the time loop thing closes which I guess puts him back in the present day. In England somewhere. The next scene, he is riding his bike to his grandfather’s house in Florida. Now, I think there is a whole movie in the space where he disappears in the regular timeline, instantly appears in England, then has to call his parents to explain where he is and he’ll be utterly unable to explain how he did it and he won’t have a way to get home without a shit-ton of problems. Or maybe he rides his bike across the ocean to Florida, because that makes as much sense.
Really, this movie is a fucking horror story, but not in the way you think. See, there are these people like Eva Green and Judi Dench who can create loops in time, and they find children, and they keep them in this time loop where they have to repeat everything they do, every day, over and over. The kids Miss Peregrine is “protecting” have to eat FUCKING CARROTS every single day for dinner FOR OVER SEVENTY FUCKING YEARS. It’s like if Bill Murray knew the person who was making him relive Groundhog Day over and over, had to interact with them, and had to do what that person said EVERY FUCKING DAY UNTIL FOREVER. Ella Purnell is a girl who is 80 years old and has known three boys her age, one of whom is dead and other (Terrence Stamp) who left 75 years before. She doesn’t get to age, fuck, drink, eat anything besides carrots, smoke, see a movie that isn’t the projection of some perpetual nine-year-old’s fucking dreams, nothing, for SEVENTY FUCKING YEARS. Miss Peregrine is the real villain here. What a fucking dystopian, hellish life. It’s a Twilight Zone episode where everyone is Stockholm Syndromed by Eva Green because she’s quirky (she smokes a pipe! Once. For two seconds. But for some reason it’s one of the three things used to describe her character. Whatever). She’s a fucking monster.
Anyway, this movie has great visuals and effects, amazing creature design, some great performances (Eva Green is amazing and should have been in every minute of this film), and glimpses of a good story. Unfortunately it’s saddled with all the rest of the shit, especially Tim Burton. I went with three other people who loved the movie, so I guess this movie gets three out of four stars, but that last star thought this movie was terrible and hated it despite the good parts.
The Raven (2012)
This movie is way, way worse than the one I just reviewed.
This movie is set in Baltimore in 1849 and stars John Cusack playing John Cusack who somehow manages to get everyone else in Baltimore 1849 to call him Edgar Allen Poe. Seriously, John Cusack is exactly like every other character John Cusack has ever played. He’s the guy from High Fidelity without the top 5 lists – the patter, the mannerisms, the words, everything – only he’s supposed to be Edgar Allen Poe. It’s hysterically bad, but it takes itself too seriously to be enjoyably bad, which makes it just plain bad.
The plot involves someone murdering people based on Poe’s stories – dude getting sliced with a pendulum, throats getting cut like Rue Morgue. So, if you’ve seen the first episode of Castle, or literally any other one of those copycat movies, you’ve seen this premise. In this case though, someone must’ve watched Sleepy Hollow, then From Hell, and then decided to combine that with Castle episode 1. Only they couldn’t afford to set $10 million on fire by getting Depp and instead went for… John Cusack. I like John Cusack. I like Joan Cusack. I’m generally pro-Cusack. John Cusack is the wrong fucking person for this movie.
So it begins with cops trying to solve a locked-room murder and they bring in a cool detective named Fields to break the case (played by Luke Evans, aka Dracula Untold guy). He figures it out in a handful of seconds because he’s read The Murders of the Rue Morgue. They question John Cusack, people wonder if he did it, the standard shtick. Then, John Cusack is hitting on his honey Emily in front of her father, who fucking hates him because literally every father in the world would fucking HATE the idea of John Cusack and his mannerisms marrying their daughter. Can you imagine that? I’d boil him in lye before I’d let him date MY daughter, and I don’t even have one. Oh, and the dad is played by Brendan Gleeson, who is AWESOME since he gets to play himself, who is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than John Cusack in a historical role. John Cusack can’t even play someone from the 1970’s. If the Eighties had a baby via Immaculate Conception, it would be John Cusack.
Anyway, Emily (who has an amazing accent. I have no idea what it is, but it changes every few words so it’s a nice delightful surprise) wants to marry John Cusack, who is a barely functional alcoholic with rage issues who hasn’t produced anything worth a shit in years, since Emily liked a poem he did where she imagines herself to be the dead girl from it (Annabelle Lee). They decide to talk to Brendan Gleeson at his masquerade ball – perfect for the Red Death – but the cops want him to cancel and he says no so the cops go in masks and mingle with the crowd instead of standing outside all the entrances to the place to prevent someone dressed like Death coming in. Sure enough, someone rides in on a horse – literally rides his horse THROUGH THE DOORS OF THE MANSION AND INTO THE BALL ROOM while dressed like the Grim Reaper – and the cops shoot him, and the guy is wounded but says “someone hired me to do it so I thought it was totally normal and on the up and up to do so” and DUH DUH DA DUH red herring! In the confusion of a man on a horse riding into the middle of a dance, the REAL KILLER absconds with Emily.
What follows is a series of murders, still all based on Poe stories, each murder involving completely bullshit clues to lead to the next murder. The killer, via letter ala From Hell, tells the cops that John Cusack has to write the story of the murders and publish them in the morning paper or else he’ll kill Emily, and they also need to get to Emily before she dies because she’s been buried alive ala Amontillado. This part is long and terrible, because the clues are bullshit and everything just takes too long and you can tell someone has a checklist of Poe death scenes and they have to make sure they’re all checked off.
Blah blah blah, people die, John Cusack writes, newspapers are published. Then he gets a note that congratulates John Cusack on the great story BEFORE the paper is delivered, so John Cusack knows it’s someone from the newspaper. It’s the typesetter, who’s
been involved the whole time in an earlier scene that no one paid attention to! He and John Cusack knock back a couple of drinks while the killer explains that he just wanted Poe writing again because he’s so talented and now everyone will remember him. That’s the whole motive behind all of this stuff. He makes John Cusack drink poison and leaves, and as he is leaving he indicates that Emily is around here someplace and says that there’s this guy Jules Verne in Paris he wants to visit.
John Cusack gets down on the floor and finds hollow boards and realizes there is something beneath him. So, in order to get to the place where the killer has this library/office space and where he’s buried Emily under floorboards, John Cusack has to literally push over a twelve-foot long heavy table that’s nailed to the floor by using his entire body, rip up the floor ABOVE the floor with a hammer, and open a trapdoor that leads to stairs that goes down to the killer’s study.
By this point, we’ve seen 3 or 4 scenes where the killer is taunting Emily, recapturing and reburying her, and this is apparently the only way in. The middle of a busy newspaper office where people normally are bopping around, where he has to renail the floor back down, then nail the table back down. Did I say this movie is shit? This movie is shit.
Anyway, John Cusack rescues Emily, then wanders off to a park bench and is found ala the way he was allegedly found in real life. The detective Fields talks to a doctor who said that John Cusack raved about a name (it’s the killer’s last name, Matthews or something, it doesn’t matter). Cut to funeral (John Cusack’s). Then the killer is shown in Paris and we know it’s Paris because there are dancing girls and baguettes and mimes, and he gets into a carriage, probably plotting all the world-spanning-balloon and 20,000-league-submarine murders he’s going to commit, when HAHA! Fields is in the carriage holding a gun and shoots the killer. Fields is then arrested for murder and hanged.
OK, that last part didn’t happen. It ends with the gunshot.
This movie is ONE HOUR AND FIFTY-ONE MINUTES LONG. It lasts an eternity. They could have cut out 31 minutes and still ended up with a movie that was an hour too long. This movie has a 22% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I want to find the people who make up this 22% to find out where the fuck their head is at. I understand Trump supporters more than I get anyone giving this a positive rating.
This movie is shit.