MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN REVIEW

A resurgent return from the Edward Scissorhands maestro? Or another dud to add to his ever-growing pile?

When Jacob (Asa Butterfield) discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s (Eva Green) Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Not bad. Macabre, mad, enthralling. Is Burton back? Well . . . almost.

The creepy opening act certainly got things going as social outcast Jacob tended to his ailing grandfather (Terence Stamp).

His home ransacked, his eyes missing (Burton really went for that 12A rating), his last words; clues to a mystery that Jacob thought was merely a fairy tale.

I was a little disappointed at Stamp’s swift departure BUT thankfully a series of flashbacks added a much needed depth to their relationship as he told Jake stories of Miss Peregrine and her ‘peculiar’ children.

Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) played it surprisingly well as Jake’s downbeat dad. Not enough of him, to be honest. Reluctantly roped into Jake’s quest for answers. Delusions of a dementia-ridden man? Or something more?

The slow build up as we delved into the grandfather’s past and the mystery of the boarding school was interesting enough. Especially when we got to meet the infamous gang.

All the Burton trademarks were there. From Enoch’s macabre Nightmare Before Christmas demented puppet fights to Olive’s Penguin gloves (Watch out for a Hitchcockian cameo).

Eva Green (Be still my beating heart. What?) was very good as Miss Peregrine. Delivering a crazy eccentricity to the role as she introduced Jake to the Peculiars and explained ‘The Loop’. A home hidden in a time bubble (Well, 1943 to be exact) that resets every day on a loop. Got it?

Despite the mad special effects and talented cast, the loop stuff flagged up more questions and plot holes than I could muster. Don’t think about it too much or it really will spoil things. Especially in the closing act.

I couldn’t fault any of the children as the Peculiars.  They really were a mad bunch from the invisible Miller, the bee-spitting Hugh, the super-human Bronwyn and the gravity-defying Emma (Ella Purnell).

They all had a chance to show off their strange abilities. I just wish more time was spent on that. Perhaps a little too much was wasted on the sulky Enoch (Finlay MacMillan) and his demented puppetry. Seriously, wait until he introduces Jake to Victor (*shudders*).

Butterfield carried the film when the pace lagged. I was fidgeting by the 60 minute marker despite great chemistry between him and Purnell as Jake and Emma’s inevitable romance blossomed.

However, that soon changed when Samuel L Jackson (finally) made his introduction (80 minutes?!) as the loathsome Mr Barron. He was brilliant. Even if he was battling with those crazy nashers. He lapped it up with enough fun and silliness even when his arms melded into some crazy T-1000 style weaponry.

Of course, he wasn’t alone . . .

Yikes, these creepy Slenderman-esque Hollows will stick with me for a while. Feeding their sustenance with the eyes of Peculiars. The eyes?! I thought this was a kid’s film?! First, Coraline freaked me out with those button eyes and now this . . .

Miss Peregrine’s Home was entertaining and fun with enough crazy visuals that kept my griping at bay. BUT it felt like after all that build up and time spend on introducing the characters that it rushed to a silly conclusion with a chaotic showdown at Blackpool Tower.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the Ransom Riggs novels BUT with such a wide array of characters (and talented cast), it was always going to be difficult to give each character the right amount of screen time. Green was virtually absent by the final act and Dame Judi Dench’s role seemed like nothing more than an extended cameo. Shame.

If there was to be a sequel, I would happily watch another. I just hope the stuff that was teased in the closing minutes actually develops into something or else this would have really been a waste.

BUT don’t let that put you off a mad fantasy ride with enough charm and special effects to kill the time.

3/5

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X + Y REVIEW

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X + Y = One good film + one happy film goer.

Heartwarming, engaging and brilliantly acted. Dare I say it? This gets a 4 from me.

I nearly missed this little gem as it had only a week release at my local (Cinema NOT pub).

What’s it about? A socially awkward teenage math prodigy (Asa Butterfield) finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

Our story follows a gifted and special young boy named Nathan (That’s my name!) who is diagnosed with autism. His unique preference for patterns soon develops an interest in mathematics leading to a . . . brilliant film.

Director Morgan Matthews and writer James Graham allow the film to move at a slow burning pace as we see Nathan receive his diagnosis. Edward Baker-Close plays young Nathan very well. His outlook and way of thinking makes him appear abrupt and quite blunt.

His honesty not necessarily coming out in the right way and at the right person.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) was superb as Nathan’s mother, Julie. Struggling to understand the condition and failing to interact with him in the right way was hard viewing. Innocently asking a young Nathan if she could help with his homework. He looks up at her and simply replies, “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not clever enough”.

Nathan’s autism may only be a particular type but it soon turns him into a social outcast.

Martin McCann (’71) was very good as Nathan’s father. His patience and understanding of Nathan allowed the news to be more of a gift than a curse. However, it isn’t long before an unexpected tragedy comes along.

The story moves forward to a teenage Nathan. Asa Butterfield (Hugo) was excellent. His mannerisms and blunt delivery were well done. You really felt for the lad but also wished he couldn’t be so rude to his mother.

The fact he won’t allow Julie to touch him or even hold her hand was heartbreaking.

Rafe Spall (Life of Pi) was brilliant as Mr Humphreys. An embittered maths teacher donning a cane and popping pills like sweets. Sound familiar?

Spall’s characters does bear a striking resemblance to that of House. His brash comments, deflated ego, bemused attitude.

However, there is a sadness behind Humphreys as we discover he is battling with multiple sclerosis.

His pairing with Nathan was like something out of the Odd Couple. Nathan’s brutally honest comments to Humphreys’ sarcastic and smart ass outlook.

When the pair first meet, Nathan asks, “Why do you walk funny?”. Humphreys’ response; “Why are you so weird?”

Comical but endearing. Humphreys’ failed Olympiad past soon becomes a crucial tool to help Nathan and it isn’t long before the pair work together on achieving the impossible.

Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan) was amusing as the highly competitive and deluded UK team Olympiad leader. Constantly driving the children and desperate to beat China in any capacity (Even jogging and cooking shrimp).

In between training for the Olympiad and dealing with new surroundings, Nathan strikes another friendship with a Chinese Olympiad, Zhang Mei.

An impressive debut performance from Jo Yang. She had good chemistry with Butterfield and the pair are adorable together.

It was brilliantly handled and delicately deals with Nathan’s autism perfectly. From his handling of social situations to how he perceives certain colours and light.

Jake Davies (Cyberbully) was excellent as Luke; a fellow Olympiad who also has autism.

It was an interesting and harrowing comparison showing the different scales of the autism spectrum.

Luke’s attempts at interaction were harsh viewing. Scornful and arrogant, one moment. Desperate to make friends, the next.

Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) played the smug bully Isaac well. His constant put downs on Luke were all too realistic. A silly boy who is aware of his condition but still does everything to throw obstacles in Luke’s path.

The mathematics get a little mind-numbing BUT luckily the focus is always on the characters.

I just wished a little more time was spent on Humphreys’ story line. His battle with his painkiller addiction and a possible blossoming romance made for good viewing in between Nathan’s new ventures.

We got to see him fight depression but also his acceptance of MS. As the film came to a close, I felt his sub plot was left a little too open. You generally get the idea on how it was going to unfold. BUT two more minutes, just to round it all off, would have been a bit better.

Apart from that little niggle and the pace slightly dipping in the odd part, I was engrossed, engaged and interested.

The closing moments, dare I admit it, had a little tear in the eye. Someone must have sprayed something in the cinema.

It’s charming, funny, endearing and brilliantly acted.

A perfect formula for any film and certainly worth your time.

4/5