Hailed as a return to form for Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine is more like a return to familiar ground; Burton’s obsessions are never buried deep in his work, and it’s not like he was dampening his style down for Big Eyes, Frankenweenie or Dark Shadows. But this YA adaptation of the book by Ransom Riggs has a more confident and epic scope as it relates the story of a young boy Jake (Asa Butterfield) who is won over by the many gifted children of Miss Peregrine (Evan Green). There’s some complex, time-shifting story-telling here, and a strange visual atmosphere involving the British coastal resort of Blackpool. A strong supporting cast including Rupert Everett and Judi Dench don’t get to contribute much, but Green is as good as ever, and Burton seems to have remembered what his audience like to see; channeling his off-kilter style into a compelling narrative.
Tim Burton eschews his patented brand of darkness to evoke the spirit of Blake Edwards in Big Eyes, a deceptively frothy drama based on Margaret Keane, a single mother whose ability to create memorably kitsch art led to her talents being exploited by her ruthlessly ambitious husband Walter (Christophe Waltz). Burton pitches the film nicely on Mrs Keane awareness of her husband’s inner darkness, which only occasionally involves physical threat, and is driven more by naivety and misguided trust. A funny final scene, in which egocentric Walter Keane cross-examines himself in court, reveals that Big Eyes is a gently sour comedy, but one which tells a potent and felicitous tale of female empowerment. Jason Schwartzman’s briefly-glimpsed but memorably stuck-up gallery attendant deserves a film of his own.
While there’s lots to enjoy in the original television series, and in Tim Burton’s stylish film version, supernatural soap Dark Shadows has an unexpected spin-off when the show’s blooper reel appeared on You Tube. These aren’t bloopers per se, since the show was filmed as live; what’s revealed in over 40 minutes of wonderful awkwardness is actors struggling with doors, intrusive cameras, flies, props and some of the most tricky dialogue ever heard. Contrived comedy is rarely as funny as real life, and the Dark Shadows blooper reel is contagiously amusing; the multiple attempts to hang a picture, the startled looks to camera, the off-screening banging during key speeches, each happy accident is rendered all the more amusing by the period dress, and the brave way the actors have keep the scene going rather than corpse. Creating drama is a complex business, and the cast of Dark Shadows inadvertently created comic gold while their minds were on other, more Gothic things.