The Nightmare Before Christmas Review

Whenever I think of stop motion animation, the first film that always comes to mind is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ve always found this film to be such a blast, and it fits well into my lifelong fascination with bizarre cinema. Often many people (I included) act as though it’s the Citizen Kane of stop motion. This has recently got me thinking if all the praise is really warranted?

Our story takes place in the world of Halloweentown, where Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), the town’s beloved pumpkin king, has simply grown tired of Halloween. Yearning for something new, Jack stumbles upon the world of Christmastown, a warm and happy place dedicated to Christmas. Jack then decides that he will kidnap Santa Claus and, with the help of the Halloweentown residents, steal the holiday of Christmas for his own.

The soundtrack, composed by Danny Elfman, is one of a kind. The songs are catchy, fun, and highly memorable. It doesn’t feel like the songs were written as a side note to the story, as some Disney soundtracks often do. It’s feels more like the songs were written side by side with the story, so that they may aid in developing the plot. Each song has a very important and specific place it goes in the progression of the film.

Most of the characters, while possessing unique designs, remain pretty undeveloped the majority of the film. We see the characters interact a good amount, but never do we learn anything about them. Out of all the inhabitants of Halloweentown, there are only two or three individuals with distinct personalities. Even the main protagonist Jack Skellington has little to him. I find this to be a real shame, because there is obviously a lot of potential here for interesting, developed characters. Instead, Tim Burton and director Henry Selick obviously focused their efforts on the visual aspects of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The stop-motion animation used here, still holds up nicely today. The various shades of gray that Burton is famous for using, mixes very well with the animated element. As I mentioned before, each and every character you see has a very distinct design. Even characters you see only once or twice you can still remember fondly because of how distinguishing they are. Visually, I think this is one of Tim Burton’s strongest films, even compared to the likes of Batman and Beetlejuice.

Another argument you could make against the film is that, there really isn’t any message being given to the audience. The characters just go through the motions of the story without ever conveying anything. You could argue that the film is saying, “be satisfied with what you already have”, but I think that’s stretching it.

However, I don’t really think that was the intent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I believe this film was just meant to tell a simple little fairy tale. No more, no less. The sights and sounds were meant to carry the story along, not any number of  characters or dialogue. The Nightmare Before Christmas accomplishes exactly what it set out to do, and I highly respect it for that.

When all is said and done, I still love watching The Nightmare Before Christmas. This film had a profound effect on me as a kid, and I get as much enjoyment out of it now as I did years ago. I love the distinct style Tim Burton gives to all the characters and the world of Halloweentown. The beautiful stop-motion animation still holds up great, and the soundtrack tells a nicely simplistic tale. It’s a film that I will continue to cherish for many years to come.

The Verdict: A

-Zachary Flint

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review

Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children is an unusual little film about a young boy named Jacob (Asa Butterfield), who’s Grandpa Abraham (Terence Stamp) tells him all kinds of adventures from when he was young. After Abraham passes away, Jacob is sent on an adventure to meet these people his grandfather met as a boy. It turns out that these strange people Abraham knew are actually children, who live in a time loop from 1943 and perpetually live the same day over again. The children are led by one Miss Peregrine (Eva Green), a rather odd woman who is very strict but loving towards the children.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fits Tim Burton’s creepy art style very nicely. The sets in the film are kept visually interesting and the imagination of the story is able to come to life with the help of Burton. But like many Burton films, where he makes up for in style, he lacks in substance.

The one major problem I had with Miss Peregrine is that it’s often times very confusing. There is so much lore and so many different rules crammed in for the audience to know that the film trips itself up. It may even be severe enough to effect some viewers’ enjoyment, which is a real shame.

Not having read the book that Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is based on, I may be at some kind of disadvantage for understanding the content. However, that is no excuse for the film to be incoherent. Because if full grown adults are completely lost on what is happening and why, how do the filmmakers expect the target audience to understand it?

Now, I’m not sure how accurate Miss Peregrine is to the source material, but on its own merit, it’s an interesting film. When things aren’t confusing, the lore is actually really cool to learn. I like how Jacob hops from his world in 2016 to 1943. I liked the design of the monsters, which look kind of like big slender mans. And I like the “peculiarities” of the children, as well as the technicalities of the time loop.

The characters in Miss Peregrine are done pretty well and the actors are just fine. Sam Jackson as the villain was pretty over the top and entertaining to watch too. There are only a few characters, like Jacob’s dad, who really got on my nerves.

It came to a surprise to me just how dark this film is. On multiple occasions you see peoples’ eyes get sucked out of their sockets, leaving black empty space where the once were. You even see the corpse of a child talk, which even creeped me out. I don’t advise taking young children to see it, because watching a dead child talk will quite literally scare the piss out of them.

The ending to Miss Peregrine is one of the most rushed endings to a movie I’ve seen in a long time. The filmmakers seemed like they quickly threw it together and wanted to be done with it. I was both shocked and confused at how much was crammed into the last five minutes. After the movie slowly built up all the events throughout the plot, everything comes to a rushed halt. The only reason I can see someone liking this ending is if they were already bored and wanted out fast. As for me, I was very interested in the story and highly disappointed to see it abruptly end.

The ending itself is still sweet, and the protagonist story arch ends in a way that audiences will be satisfied with. It’s just very distastefully rushed.

If you’re someone who needs a consistently coherent story in a movie, this definitely isn’t your movie. If you like dark young adult films that are visually interesting and are willing to suspend your disbelief, I’d recommend giving Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children a watch. There are plenty of elements and ideas going on in Miss Peregrine for many people to enjoy.

Zachary Flint

Alice: Through the Looking Glass Review

 

Alice through the Looking Glass managed to feel even more dull, drab, and overall worse than the previous Alice in Wonderland. Even to the point where I cannot remember laughing once throughout the whole film.

The story takes place three years after the events of the first film, as Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is returning from a voyage at sea, only to find out her mother sold her half of the company to that pale guy Sheamus from the first movie. Alice gets upset and somehow makes it back to “Underland”. Only to find out that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying because nobody believes him that his parents are still alive somewhere.

Right off the bat everything is going wrong for our protagonist. All these problems mixed with the dark tone of the film create a very depressing mood. I hardly smiled while watching the movie. Did nobody in the production of this film stop and think that maybe it was a little too dark? Given the source material of the usually wacky and nonsensical world of Wonderland.

Since the main comedic relief of the previous Alice in Wonderland film is a wet blanket in this film, there are few jokes made. The jokes that were made in Alice through the Looking Glass got very little laughs from the audience. The theater was dead silent the entire runtime and some moviegoers even got up and left before the halfway point.

The creators of Alice through the Looking Glass even managed to make Sacha Baron Cohen as boring and drab as possible. I felt that his dialogue was just as unfunny and lame as the rest of the cast. I guess he was supposed to take the role as comedic relief but his character came off as painful to watch.

The one major plus of this movie is our protagonist Alice herself. More specifically, Mia Wasikowska’s acting. In Alice in Wonderland, I felt she was very drab and showed little to no emotion throughout the entirety of the runtime. In Alice through the Looking Glass she genuinely held my attention more than any other actor or actress in the movie. She showed emotion, and led us a little deeper into the character of Alice.

I know many people, including myself, felt that Time Burton taking a back seat to directing and only producing the film would give a better outcome than his Alice in Wonderland. Maybe it wouldn’t be so dark, the characters as bland, and the general feeling not “style over substance”.

We were all very wrong.

Overall, I was mostly disappointed with Alice through the Looking Glass. Other than some of the visuals and Mia Wasikowska’s performance, I don’t think this film had anything going for it. It’s a real shame that the live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland didn’t turn out as everyone would have liked. Perhaps in the future, with Disney’s other live action remakes, Alice in Wonderland can have a better fitting movie.

Zachary Flint

 

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS