Tim Burton returns with Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, a new movie based on Ransom Riggs' popular Young Adult novel. The plot, which involves monsters, bizarre teenagers, suburbia and time travel certainly seemed like an ideal vehicle for the director.
Asa Butterfield is Jake, an ordinary suburban kid who, one night, finds his grandfather (played by Terrence Stamp) dying with both his eyes missing. Following the path outlined by the late old man's bedtime stories, Jake travels to Wales with his father where, supposedly, he would find the school for oddball children he'd heard so much about. Initially disappointed by what he finds, he eventually stumbles upon one of the students who leads him to the school which happens to be purposely stuck in a time loop. Jake meets the rest of the pupils including an invisible boy, a girl who can float, a kid who spits out bees and a super-strong little girl, among others. It's easy to see why Burton would be keen on this adaptation since its characters could have easily been some of his own, like the strange bunch from his own poetry book The Melancholy Death Of Oyster Boy.
The film deals with themes explored by the director before but with more of an X-Men meets Harry Potter type of vibe. This is both Tim Burton's safest yet darkest movie in a while as the imagery throughout is pretty disturbing and will no doubt scare the pants off younger viewers. Samuel L. Jackson steals the show as the main antagonist Mr Barron, a disguised monster with sharp teeth and various abilities. He's the leader of the Wights and Hollows, in other words evil "peculiars" and eyeball-eating creatures. Visually, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is a treat: the special effects look great, there's some clever use of stop-motion in places and it manages to be both colourful yet also sinister. The cast is mostly solid with Eva Green on top form as the pipe-smoking Miss Peregrine (a kind of goth Mary Poppins) and a good bunch of child actors with the reliable likes of Chris O'Dowd, Rupert Everett and Judi Dench in supporting roles.
Unfortunately, this is one needlessly convoluted film and, by the time you get to the Blackpool loop, it's unlikely you'll be 100% clear about what's going on unless you know the book well. No scene or line of dialog is really wasted, there's just so much information to convey about all the characters and this whole loop concept that, although the film is already exposition-heavy as it is, it still feels like its explanations are rushed somehow. Maybe this is one that would benefit from repeat viewings? There are also lapses in logic as the peculiar kids only use their powers when the plot demands it when they could have probably come in handy much earlier. That said, Burton makes good use of most of those goofy powers. Mr Barron and the other ghoulish baddies also don't make much sense as their motivations are all over the place. As for Asa Butterfield, he is far too bland as Jake: his performance being a very distracting weak link in a movie that's otherwise rather good acting-wise.
This is definitely a messier film than you'd expect and Burton probably should have looked into creating his own superhero monster kids' movie rather than adapt something maybe best suited for a novel. It is a wild and creative story, though, and you'll definitely find things to enjoy here but this is more Dark Shadows than Edward Scissorhands, I'm afraid.
From executive producers J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau, Revolution was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi series from 2012 set after the power inexplicably goes out in the world leaving it in a permanent blackout as America's leadership is completely reshuffled and a resistance grows.
Revolution presents a big concept with a lot of potential and the previews for this show looked like a lot of fun. With the involvement of Abrams and the usually reliable Billy Burke, this certainly ticked all right boxes. The Pilot episode, directed by Favreau himself, introduces us to the main characters and this new post-power world rather well as America finds itself divided with the North-Eastern coast being run by intimidating dictator Monroe (David Lyons). When scientist Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), who was involved in the mess that led to the power being turned off, is killed by the Monroe Republic militia and his son Danny (Graham Rogers) is kidnapped, his headstrong daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) sets off to find her estranged uncle Miles (Billy Burke) to help save Danny from the hands of the sociopathic Monroe. Miles is reluctant to help at first but he is soon onboard and the two of them set off on a long journey to Philadelphia where they believe Danny is being taken.
Other main characters include Aaron Pittman (Zak Orth), an ex-Google executive and Nora Clayton (Daniella Alonso), one of the rebels who eventually helps out Miles. Giancarlo Esposito, mostly known for his chilling turn in Breaking Bad, takes on one of the main villain roles as the militia's Captain Tom Neville. Buying the high concept of a show like this is essential if you're going to sit through a lot of it and, unfortunately, Revolution is never convincing. This is partly due to the surprisingly humourless tone of the show and the ridiculous nature of the whole thing. It's quite obvious, right off the bat, that the power going out would probably not lead to the world turning into a silly Robin Hood-esque type of scenario. And, just when you're almost ready to believe that it makes sense, the show suddenly throws something completely random at you like magic computer chips capable of fixing broken bones. Using the same gimmicks as Lost in that the story often resorts to flashback scenes for character development, Revolution comes off as derivative and not all that original when it could have easily been an intriguing new sci-fi series.
Part of the problem with this show is the plot feels constantly distracted from itself with big setups falling flat like the few times Monroe and Miles finally face-off and pointless filler episodes like the one where everyone starts to hallucinate due to lack of oxygen or the one where they help out a bunch of kids for no reason. Maybe Revolution's vision of the future was never quite fully worked out which might explain why this first Season feels almost written on the fly, episode by episode. The fact that the cast is extremely uneven doesn't help either: Tracy Spiridakos' Charlie is bland, whiny and frankly dislikable, Nora and Aaron are never interesting and Billy Burke looks like he's bored out of his mind. Luckily, both Monroe and Tom Neville are great characters but it's always a bad sign when you're rooting for the villains over the heroes. Still, they're effective enough to hold your interest throughout and Elizabeth Mitchell, who plays Charlie's mother, does a decent job in a badass role.
While hardly the worst thing on television, Revolution is still a disappointment as you'd expect better from all involved. This was a show with a lot of potential but not the sharp, creative writing and strong performances to back it up plus visually it offers nothing new. You might want to skip this one and re-watch Lost instead, or 24 even since most of that show's cast is in Revolution.
In 2015, Billy Crystal and Josh Gad co-starred in The Comedians, a mockumentary series following the collaboration of two mismatched actors in a TV sketch comedy show and their love/hate relationship off-camera.
Like a cross between Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Larry Sanders Show and Extras, The Comedians is instantly derivative in that it's your typical improv-heavy behind-the-scenes type of show where you see the two leads clash and deal with various awkward situations then talk to the camera about it. This is intercut with silly sketches from the show being portrayed in the series. Crystal and Gad may not be the obvious choice for a team, which might explain the low ratings, yet they quickly prove that they are a worthy comedy duo and the show is surprisingly effective. It's refreshing to see Billy Crystal enjoying himself playing a purposely more flawed character and Gad adds another level to his usual schtick by showing a lot of improvisational talent, great timing and solid acting chops.
The Comedians sees Crystal pitch a project to the network which would involve him playing literally every role in a sketch comedy but when he is told that it would be overkill, they suggest Josh Gad as a co-star. Their styles being radically different, this leads to various disagreements and the show's director Larry Charles (who also directs most the season's episodes) is fired on the first day. The best parts come when Crystal and Gad step on each others' toes as it's a lot of fun to see these guys bicker and have a sense of humour about themselves. They are portrayed as being pretty selfish throughout but the show never lets them become dislikable and, in fact, several episodes include some genuinely sweet moments like "Billy's Birthday" or "Partners", the finale.
The goofy nature of the sketch show's material contrasts really well with the more subtle behind-the-scenes antics and it's great to see both Crystal and Gad in an edgier, more modern type of show. It's just a shame that there isn't something more unique about it. The excellent leads and supporting cast, Stephnie Weir is particularly good as the off-beat producer, make The Comedians a really funny show from start to finish and it's a pity that it wasn't renewed because this was a series with some great set-ups, sharp writing and a winning relationship at its heart. The problem with FX is that it almost has too many good comedy shows going on with the likes of Louie and Archer always doing well so some are going to inevitably get left behind.
It may not have received the success it aimed for and it was probably too derivative for its own good but The Comedians deserved better. This is a really enjoyable, at times hilarious little show with plenty of potential and two talented leads who are always fun to watch at its helm. If you like the shows it resembles then you'll no doubt have a great time with this underrated gem.