Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Okay, so this fantasy movie has to do with World War II and displaced children, but all resemblance to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe ends there, because Tim Burton went and made it creepy. Or maybe the book was already creepy, and the movie is just true to the source material. I guess I was hoping for something more like Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters from The X-Men.

I am not sure just how creepy the movie was or wasn’t, because the plane landed and I didn’t see the whole thing. None of the subsequent planes had it in the catalog! I’m curious to see the end, but I’m not in any particular rush.


Mohenjo Daro (2016)

I had never heard of this ancient city, which is a real place, an archaeological site in what is now Pakistan. Since the movie is about a real place about which little is known, there’s a disclaimer reminding viewers that the movie makers made use of artistic license—they’re just telling an interesting story about the place, not trying to tell the true history of it.

“This film does not support or promote any specific interpretations of the Origin, Character or Decline of the Ancient Indus Civilization. Archaeologists and Historians have many different opinions and interpretations that remain to be confirmed through further studies. The Sindhu script is still undeciphered and no one knows the names of the cities at that time. So we have used the popular name – Mohenjo Daro!”

The sets and costumes were interesting, but the plot seemed forced. The country-boy hero has a secret destiny, goes off to the city, falls in love with the princess/priestess, discovers his true identity, saves the day, blah blah blah. There was a lot of telling rather than showing.

“2hr 6min: In 2016 BC, a farmer travels to Mohenjo Daro to trade. Whilst there he soon falls in love, however she is due to marry the city’s ruler’s son. (This is a Hindi film shown with English subtitles and has been edited for content)”

The Boss Baby (2017)

I was expecting a terrible comedy, but this Dreamworks cartoon explores some emotional family themes and has a fantasy premise that is inventive yet strangely logical: the corporation in charge of sending babies to Earth is concerned that humans are starting to prefer puppies to babies, so they send down the Boss Baby as an undercover agent, with the result that the baby’s older brother gets jealous, discovers that the Boss Baby isn’t really a baby, and then has to help save the world from indifference to newborns.


La La Land (2016)

Hollywood has made yet another movie about Hollywood! It’s also about compromises, almosts, and might-have-beens; strangely, this Hollywood movie doesn’t quite have a happy Hollywood ending. Worth watching unless you’re one of those people who can’t abide musicals.


Your Name (2016)

How many body-swapping movies have you seen?

I’ve seen…

  • Freaky Friday (1976) – mother/daughter
  • Big (1988) – boy/older self
  • Freaky Friday (2003) – mother/daughter
  • 13 Going on 30 (2004) – girl/older self
  • Just Follow Law (2007) – male/female co-workers

…but there are lots more I’d never even heard of.

This one’s different. It made a ton of money and earned praise from critics. I’d say it’s worth watching even if you’re not a teen or an anime fan. The story is deeply emotional and surprisingly complex.


Thor: The Dark World (2013)

I’m not sure what the theme was, but the fantasy/action plot was suitably, um, suitable for a superficially fun fantasy/action movie, there were some good laughs, and although the dialog was somewhat predictable, it didn’t sound cardboardy—except when it was describing the evil magical stuff.


Keep reading for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Ex Machina (2014)

This is not the kind of thing I typically watch, and it is creepy. Very well done, very thought-provoking, but in the end, creepy as all heck.

Tomorrowland was a cheerful attempt to show technology as ultimately good, which is not a popular thing to do, and might not have succeeded. Ex Machina is an attempt to show technology as ultimately scary, which is maybe also not easy, but more often succeeds—certainly it succeeded in this case.

There are only a handful characters in the movie, but their interactions are fascinating. The dialog does a better job of exploring the “ghost in the machine” theme than either of the Ghost in the Shell movies. The movie tackles the nature/nurture debate from the standpoint of art, using a Jackson Pollock painting as a metaphor for choice. The setting, which serves to underscore the contrast between man and machine in the movie, is a supermodern forest retreat which (as I surmised) actually exists.


Below are some thoughts on this movie and other android movies, as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, because even indie movies have a rising-falling plot structure.

Continue reading Ex Machina (2014)

Tomb Raider (2001)

To me, this movie was always “that famous one about the hot female character from some video game I’ve never played because (a) I’m not a guy and (b) I prefer games where I get to make colored shapes disappear.” Even after I went to Cambodia and poked around in the tree-covered fallen temple famous for having been in the movie, I didn’t really much care whether I ever saw Tomb Raider or not.

Now that I’ve seen it, I understand what all the fuss was about: this movie launched Angelina Jolie’s career. The character is awesome, and the stunts are awesome, and Angelina Jolie is awesome for playing the character and doing the stunts.

Nevertheless, the whole thing felt like an expensive, lame joke. I think I enjoyed Prince of Persia more. The movie I was most reminded of was the lopsided 2017 China/India project Kung Fu Yoga, in which Jackie Chan unleashes his inner Indiana Jones.

I live in Southeast Asia and have been to Cambodia multiple times because Angkor Wat is the awesomest UNESCO heritage site in the region. See below for more of my thoughts on the movie’s setting.

Continue reading Tomb Raider (2001)

Tomorrowland (2015)

I think the vagueness of the looming disaster that the protagonists have to avert prevents the movie from being a great one, but there’s lots to delight the imagination in Tomorrowland, and the underlying message, the glorification of hope and creativity, is one I can get behind.

I don’t know who this retro-futuristic dys/utopian sci-fi/fantasy family mystery/thriller nostalgic road adventure movie was made for, because it’s got admirable protagonists in three different age groups, and that’s not the only thing that makes it a bit strange. Whatever else it may be, however it might be said to fail, it’s definitely original.


Below are some notes on what I thought the message of the movie was as well as a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Tomorrowland (2015)

The Pagemaster by Jordan Horowitz

Not having seen the movie recently, I can’t say whether, as an adult, I think the novelization is better or worse than the movie itself.

The Pagemaster—that is, both the book and the movie whose story it recapitulates—has a beginning, a series of events, and an ending, but it’s too slight to really feel like a proper narrative. Yes, the main character learns a lesson in the course of the adventure, but the beginning is so unsubtle that you already know exactly what the ending is going to be like. Watching the character get there is just tedious because he has no goal other than getting home safely; he only learns his lesson because the plot requires him to.

Maybe I’d be nostalgic for the story if I’d seen the movie as a kid, when the lack of subtlety would perhaps not have bothered me, and the whole adventure would perhaps have seemed more exciting.

As it is, I am willing to forgive much because the movie glorifies reading, but there are other movies that do that better! The one that comes to mind is The Neverending Story, in which a frightened boy gets himself into a magic adventure by means of a book. The characters and their story are much more dramatic, much more memorable.

The movie The Pagemaster is like The Phantom Tollbooth in that a boy who desperately needs fixing goes on a magical adventure as a cartoon and then returns, fixed, to the real world. It is unlike the Phantom Tollbooth in that it lacks any kind of charm.

You see a pattern, right? The Phantom Tollbooth and the Neverending Story were both successful novels before they were screenplays. The movie tie-in book of The Pagemaster is not a novel, it’s a novelization. I guess I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

When and Why I Read The Pagemaster

Sometimes I buy movie-tie-in books for movies I have.

Genre: fiction (fantasy)
Date started / date finished:  25-Aug-17 to 26-Aug-17
Length: 75 pages
ISBN: 0590202448
Originally published in: 1994
Amazon link: The Pagemaster