Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

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Plot: A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret

I haven’t seen a worse plot description in my life on IMDb. “A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret” – really? That is all they have to say about one of classical literature’s finest novels? Okay then. My review of the novel Jane Eyre should have alerted you already that I’d been lit up with fervor for this story, and I obsessively searched for a copy of the movie to see if it would hold up with my hopes. In fairness, the movie is now seven years old, so procuring a copy was no easy task. I eventually ordered one online and had to wait two whole weeks for delivery.

The 2011 version of Jane Eyre is fantastic, and very much what I wanted the movie to be. Mia Wasikowska is a fantastic Jane Eyre – she nails the passion of Jane so well. At first glance, Jane appears to be a mousy, plain girl who was lucky to receive an education. The viewer is naturally privy to more information – she was mishandled by her only relatives and her school was a strict and harsh environment. Yet Jane has an amazing capacity to care, noted when she takes care of her charge in Mr. Rochester’s home. Adele (Romy Settbon) is a French oddity in the prudish British countryside, and while the movie briefly references that she might be Mr. Rochester’s illegitimate child, the book illustrates better the responsibility Mr. Rochester unwillingly feels for her.

Michael Fassbender might be a bit too handsome for Mr. Rochester – in the book he is described as distinctly un-handsome (i.e. ugly) – but for intensity he is a fantastic choice for Mr. Rochester. The levels of the man – his harshness and anger towards the world and the façade he can give his more elite guests make him a really intriguing man. I would have liked it had they included his scene as the beggar woman, because it adds another level to his character – a shrewdness to not be deceived.

Judi Dench gives an – unsurprisingly – good performance as Mrs. Fairfax – her nervousness in keeping her master happy and the protectiveness she feels towards the inhabitants of the manor.

Jamie Bell is very convincing as St. John Rivers, and he makes the character more likeable than I found him in the book. St. John Rivers remains a really interesting character to consider, because he is on first glance the male replica of Jane – stern, middle class, quite plain, but further inspection reveals he has nothing of Jane’s passion and determination.

Jane Eyre is as dreary as its literary counterpart – incessant fog and rain makes the watcher feel as closed in as Jane must feel. I’ll definitely re-watch – it’s really good and made me miss the novel again. Again, I felt the movie could have included at least Mr. Rochester reclaiming sight in his one eye – the movie reunites the characters but with very little hope due to his poor condition.

Jane Eyre remains one of my favorite classical literatures. It is feminism at its finest origin – Jane’s determination to be an equal to Mr. Rochester. I have to delve deeper into this world – there is so much more to discover!

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

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Plot: Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

I’m trying to start this review with some really sharp comment, something more verbose than “This is a poor, poor film”. As I can’t come up with something quite yet, you can take that as a start to this review and take it to heart. The remake crazy continues because apparently originality has been slaughtered. What sacred franchise hasn’t been touched? So unnecessary, yet movie houses are desperate to cash in on that nostalgic feeling, yet somehow still too lazy to develop proper scripts.

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Tomb Raider is no different. Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons and Evan Daugherty thinks their movie watchers are remarkably stupid (judging by my fellow audience members, they weren’t all that wrong). Visual and verbal clues are everywhere. Lara is forced to verbalize all her thoughts, because the audience couldn’t pick it up for themselves apparently. Clues are left everywhere – such as “Watch me” on the obviously placed video camera her dad left in his den. I also happen to think Lara isn’t nearly as bright as we must believe. She refuses to access her father’s fortune before she sets off to the island she is supposed to stay away from, yet sells her most valued possession to access to embark upon her mission. She travels with a drunken Chinese sailor (Daniel Wu) in a broken down boat because logic. They are both immediately captured when they wash out on the coast by madman fanatic Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins). He at least provides a legitimate face to the devious company setting out to disrupt the world. Things naturally escalate and with many improbable events that would certainly have caused death to any normal person, there is a final explosion and escalation and a setup for an additional film.

I, quite obviously, didn’t like it. It was agony and I was itching to just walk out of cinema. It even seemed like that new Pacific Rim film, which looks like a Michael Bay extravaganza (though not directed by him at all), would have been a better choice. I do admire Alicia Vikander – she’s ripped for this role and performs admirably in the various obstacles set out for her, but she’s actually just way too talented to have to suffer through such substandard writing.

Although the film had some merits, I will most certainly not think back fondly or attempt to watch a second installment, which is bound to happen as the film is doing surprisingly okay in the markets.

Rating: 5/10

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)

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Plot: T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

I remember sitting down to watch Wonder Woman last year – the nerves and anticipation and hope that a film about my kind finally being a superhero would be great. How fantastic was the notion that someone like me could change the world? How empowering it was! As I watched Diana Prince ignore male orders and march onto a battlefield because her heart dictated her to,  and I finally felt vindicated for having my own share of protectiveness towards those I hold dear.

And finally, in 2018, we have come to a place where black people can finally celebrate the same feat. Black Panther is fantastic. I am not black, but I am South-African, and sitting in the cinema with black people and feeling their joy with this film was uplifting and very emotional. T’Challa isn’t a sidekick, he isn’t the bad guy, he is a man of royal blood. He doesn’t have to find his riches, he is rich. Wakanda is, as some have rightly said, both a view of how Africa might have been without colonialism and a celebration of retaining your culture will thriving in a modern technological world. Black Panther does not skirt around issues, it faces it head on. Slavery and the destruction of a continent is frequently referenced, as well as the deeply moral question of why Wakanda did not intervene to help their neighbors when they had unlimited power to do so. Well, to me Wakanda had the correct intuition, and I can only wish the entire continent could have seen the danger and protected itself against pillaging.

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Chadwick Boseman is an exceptional Black Panther. T’Challa is a good mix of culture, regal blood, love, humor, wisdom, kindness and some fantastic fighting skills. He was born to be King, and his nature dictates him to be a kind and just one for his people. Other tribe leaders, especially W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya’s, in wonderful South-African traditional clothes), Mbaku (Winston Duke) have issues with some of his choices, and this especially creates discord between W’Kabi and T’Challa when T’Challa fails to bring Klaue (truly excellent Andy Serkis) to Wakanda to account for his crimes against the Wakandan people.

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Michael B. Jordan impressed me immensely. I haven’t seen too much from him, and I really did not know how excellent an actor he is. As Erik Stevens the warmonger and the thorn in T’Challa’s side, he is both heart breaking and terrifying. He would have been like T’Challa if a great crime hadn’t been committed against him, and his crimes are heinous enough to have you wince but his memories are painful enough to make you weep for him. He was a strong villain, perhaps one of the stronger ones in Marvel, and I really enjoyed him.

There is a lot of humor too, especially delivered by Shuri (Letitia Wight). The movie has genuinely funny moments and the audience was in stitches as it found its crowd. Even Mbaku has some funny moments, and his humor mixes surprisingly well with his warrior attitude.

It would be very unfair to not mention the outstanding female cast as well. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are fierce female warriors, sworn to protect Wakanda. They have great moments together, and their chase through South Korea is especially fine to watch. Shuri is a smart and sassy young woman, and she is a technological spearhead for Wakanda, highlighting the importance of girls in technology in style. Angela Basset as the Queen Mother is regal and beautiful, and her care for her children and nation are evident to see.

South Africa had a phenomenal week last week. The fall of the Gupta empire and Jacob Zuma, the rise of Cyril Ramaphosa and the first SONA in years that didn’t result in a screaming match made South-Africans happier than I’ve seen them in a decade. The optimism in the streets could only be even more enhanced by seeing South-African faces in this film, South-African traditional wear and Xhosa being used as the Wakandan language.

I was worried that Black Panther wouldn’t be good – I really wanted it to be, if only to prove to the butthead racists on the internet that inclusion is necessary and can yield as good results as the standard white washed, male domineered films we generally get. Black Panther is GREAT, and is an excellent start to the superhero year. The cast and director and Marvel should all be congratulated for their excellent work in this film – it is something to be proud of!

Rating: 8.5/10

Blindspot 2018: Ghostbusters (1984)

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Plot: Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

Whether you’ve seen it or not, you really know who to call. Ghostbusters (1987) is one of the most instantly recognizable films and soundtrack – like the Matrix, another Blindspot choice, you know of it whether you have seen the film or not.

Bill Murray is a surprisingly hunky (sorry) scientist, Venkmen. He is fired from his plush job at the university, and has an idea to start a business capturing supernatural creatures, and takes his equally fired colleagues Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) with. They officially become Ghostbusters, hunting down the alarmingly high number of supernatural creatures on the loose in New York City.

In fulfilling these activities, they attract the attention of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who has the really annoying supernatural phenomena of cooking eggs on her countertop and a demon named Zuul, who naturally won’t settle for anything less than destroying the world. The Ghostbusters set themselves on the task of saving said world, while procuring the affections of Dana for Peter.

A remake of this classic film was released in 2016, and man, there were a lot of angry men. I’ve been told that not all men were pigheaded in this regard, and with that I agree – some aren’t sexist prigs. However, I can see why they were so angry – the original Ghostbusters have some rather sexist attitudes – Peter Venkmen is rather persistent in Dana Barrett, even after her explicitly stating that she’s not all that interested. That type of humor was okay back in the 80’s, and I am sure a lot of men still subscribe to the nothing that even if a woman is clearly not interested, you should still harass her. But I digress. There is also the fact that all the heroes are men – and I do like a good hero – but I can see that some could feel threatened by it.

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Anyway, back to the actual film. It was fun, short and packed with adventure. The graphics aren’t half bad for the time, and it is truly fun to see Bill Murray in action. It’s not my favorite role of Sigourney Weaver (Alien forever), but she’s really good to watch as always. There were some great supernatural moments, and what I genuinely liked is that this movie manages to pass as a comedy rather than some thriller, because that would never have worked.

Ghostbusters is definitely not a bad way to start my Blindspot series, and I really hope the rest of the year’s films will be equally as fun.

Rating: 7.5/10

Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

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Plot:A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity

As we head into February, it seems like it’s that time of the year again. I am a big fan of romantic comedies that doesn’t make you want to puke, and this certainly fits the bill. I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding in June last year, and found it a really fun and sweet comedy that I will probably watch twenty times in the future again. The question is: why haven’t I ever seen this film?

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I LOVED it. It was the perfect pick me up when I watched it, and I have watched it once more already. It was so lovely. If you have a big, loud family, you will relate with all of Toula’s problems. I loved her dad and his Windex. I loved the mom and how she expertly handled dad who thought he was in charge of the house. I loved the sense of family from the women.  I loved how Ian Miller fell for and went after Toula, and how sweet and caring and understanding he was. Only a man with plenty of courage will go willingly marry in to that family! Aunt Voula was a delight, with her inappropriate comments and stories. The story about her dead twin made me laugh so hard. The film is a celebration of strange families and how we are stuck because you love them even when they embarrass you.  It is quick witted, sweet and caring. Toula’s wedding was hilarious – the level of makeup and tull and who knows what else they stuck on her was quite funny.

Definitely recommended as a delightful hilarity – it is also a quick watch so if you are like me and hate drawn out films, definitely consider this one!

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: The Maze Runner: Death Cure (2018)

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Plot: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Contains minor spoilers

I have experienced a rather good start to the year with new releases. I am still not over the wonderful The Greatest Showman (2018), and I am still listening to its’ soundtrack every single day. I can’t wait to purchase the DVD and show it to everyone I know, so that they too can be as happy as I. It also provided a pitfall for The Death Cure – could anything impress me after I was so ridiculously happy?

Well, The Death Cure didn’t make me as happy (two tonally different films as there ever was), but it did entertain me. The opening sequence, the lead culprit in the massive time delay of the film when Dylan O’Brien was seriously injured on set, is exciting and intense. I also really appreciate a film where the main characters can actually shoot and is not just randomly shooting into thin air – all the actors can be applauded for holding a gun in a manner that shows they’ve had some training.

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The relationship between Thomas (O’Brien) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), is still as tight as ever. They are in this together, and the two actors themselves share a great chemistry on set. I like Newt, he’s such a sarcastic character full of pithy remarks. I still absolutely loathe Theresa – who doesn’t, and even her final attempts at redemption couldn’t convince me to find actual time for her. He doesn’t deserve Thomas or his compassion, and I completed related to my fellow movie goer when he passionately yelled “Can this bitch just die?!” in cinema – although good sir, do not refer to women as bitches, please.

I will perhaps always hate Aiden Gillen (perhaps unfairly). He also plays a devious bastard in The Death Cure, and this does not help him in terms of affection. He is able to play a weak man really well. He meets his fate in The Death Cure in a much more brutal and enjoyable fashion than in Game of Thrones.

The film has a solid progression, and although it did start to feel long I wasn’t terrible irritated by that. There was a stage at about halfway through the film where I wondered how on earth they were planning to wrap things up in the time they had left, but they managed.

Granted that I really didn’t like the second one (I am still not sure what went on there), this film turned out remarkably well. The Death Cure is not perfect – I felt that half of the female stars had no acting power, and they are, as always, very underrepresented. I always enjoy a dystopian setting that turns out to be some clinical trial drama – that is essentially what Divergent and The Maze Runner boils down to – what ethical values are governments willing to forsake of their people when faced with a massive viral disaster? This is my food man. However, it should be noted that the rights of a patient will never be compromised for the advancement of science, thank you very much.

Overall, The Death Cure did just fine as my second film for this year. That guy with the hollowed out cheeks and funky attitude was proper badass and had an epic moment or two. Eyebrows returning – he looks like he waxed his eyebrows, and I still think it must be a challenged to be permanently surprised. I’ve never read these books, so I can’t compare it to the source material, but as a dystopian film it works well and rounds of the series just fine.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: Lego: Batman (2017)

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Plot: A cooler-than-ever Bruce Wayne must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering that he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

After seeing Lego: Ninjago (2017), I wasn’t all that impressed. It isn’t awful, but there are little to no humor for me to relate to. It’s a kids movie, and as that it just fine. I was told that I had to see Lego Batman, and lofty accolades such as “This is the only movie from DC since Nolan that has been GOOD” – I was quick to point out the wonderful Wonder Woman (2017), but I had to check Lego: Batman, out.

So I’m not putting it above Wonder Woman, but there were truths to the claim – Lego: Batman is fantastic. It is hilarious and witty and the dialogue is fantastic.

How do they give building blocks such emotions? When Batman was sad, I was sad. The movie is full of popular culture references. There are some great quips – the password for the Batcave, the subtle hinting towards double standards in gender relations, and some things about dealing with your feelings that probably flew right over the heads of the little kiddos.

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Will Arnett voices the perfect Batman, creating nuances in a plastic toy that couldn’t have been there without a healthy dose of talent. Michael Cera manages to be not annoying (probably because I couldn’t see that face), and is the trusty sidekick/orphan Robin. Ralph Fiennes provide heavyweight gravity to Alfred; although he sounds still like he’s enjoying himself so much and Zach Galifianakis as The Joker manages to get real emosh at times. I also loved Rosario Dawson – I’ve become team-Rosario since discovering her in Daredevil, and she’s the best Batgirl I could wish for. She puts Batman in his place and stands her ground, and she’s an all-around stand up woman.

I don’t regret one second of this amazingly funny film, and I’d definitely watch this again.

Have you seen this? Let me know!

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

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Plot: The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father’s legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful Romulan from the future creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

JJ Abrams is a fine modern science fiction director.  He’s been behind the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fringe and Armageddon to name only a few. He’s also the creator for Alias (2001-2006), which as I slowly progress through the series impresses me even further. It’s not his best work, but it shows the variety of fields to which he can apply himself to.

2009 feels like yesterday, though it is almost – gasp – ten years ago now. Star Trek was successfully rebooted by JJ, and a clever tactic of combining old with new worked out particularly well. Starring Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimroy, the reboot is entertaining. I’ll inform you that I’m not as versed in Star Trek as I should be, yet I didn’t feel as if I was lacking information and could follow without too much prior knowledge.

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The decision to cast Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk is only questionable until you witness him in the role. He is charming, cocky, reckless and brave and he is pivotal in the success of this remake.  Leonard Nimroy provides substantial impact, and seeing him return as an older version of Spock was surely a big moment for established fans. Zachary Quinto embodies what I always imagined of Spock – like I said my knowledge here is rudimentary – but I thought he did a great job. He is also able to portray the level of feelings Spock experience, even though his race is seemly unfeeling. I enjoyed the blatant dislike Spock had in Kirk, and how that changed throughout the film to becoming first a grudging admiration and then a tentative friendship.

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The film is quite long, but it also doesn’t feel stretched out. There is naturally a time where they set up the film, and to get everyone on the same page. It provides enough insight into the characters and the events so that the film can progress at a good pace and get to the plot as it should. I wouldn’t call the story a generic one, as it is littered with interesting information, races, visuals and action, but as a Sci-Fi we have all heard the tale of planets being wiped out and its terrestrial force seeking (somewhat uncalled for) vengeance. The end is also just slightly convenient and quick, but overall not something that deducts from the experience of the film. I know it kept me entertained throughout, which is quite the feat these days as everything seems to bore me.

I am ready to venture more deeply into the world of Star Trek, starting with the newer films and someday going back to the older ones.

Rating: 8/10

Blindspot 2018: Choices

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Well, I’m still need to watch two movies on my 2017 Blindspot list, but here are my next pickings. They are as eclectic and all over the place as last year’s list, which I actually enjoyed so much because it had a bit of everything.

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Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson 
Credit: Columbia Pictures/Courtesy The Neal Peters Collection

Ghostbusters – Time to see exactly how great this is and to get why all the men got so huffy about the all-female cast of the 2017 version, which I also haven’t seen yet.

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The Matrix – I am assured I only need to watch the one

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Erin Brockovich– I am a huge Julia Roberts fan and I really need to finally see the film she won her Oscar for.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s – For the joy of seeing Audrey Hepburn in her most iconic role

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Shutter Island – need I say more? A psychological thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio

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Blade Runner – I was really interested to see the 2017 version (hello, Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford), but felt it would not be the best idea to start at the second film.

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Revolutionary Road – It is another film with DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, so I am definitely okay with that. #JackAndRose

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Jaws – chomp chomp chomp

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Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – I’ve been threatened with my life if I don’t rectify this apparently appalling crime.

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Silence of The Lambs – I’m probably going to tuck my feet safely under blankets with the lights on for this, but I’m game.

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Die Hard – I really do enjoy action films and this film seems like one consistently considered a favorite among them

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The Curious Life of Benjamin Button – This film was the most frequently almost-replaced-on-here-film, but I am still ready to watch and enjoy and watch a young Brad Pitt.

There are a few I’d almost chosen, listed below, which I would still like to get to. Although since I’m not done with 2017’s list yet, just focusing on finishing the chosen ones seem like a pretty sound decision.

  • Ant Man – literally the only Marvel movie I haven’t seen yet in later years
  • Good Fellas – because, Pacino.
  • The Sixth Sense – this was a close call but the internet has long since spoiled every single scene in this so I’ll just watch it when I can
  • The Hateful Eight, because Tarantino. Did not make the list because I’ve heard while it is Tarantino, it isn’t the Tarantino
  • American Pie – A bit of lightheartedness to these proceedings, if you will

If you are taking part this year, let me know!

Blindspot 2017: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Plot: A gentle man, with scissors for hands, is brought into a new community after living in isolation

Here at the last bit of my 2017 Blindspot reviews I found a movie that was so wonderful I actually wanted to finish it (I am currently so busy my attention span with anything not work related is intolerant at best). I also wondered whether this would be too quirky for me – this film is a classic and has a huge fanbase, but is known to be a whole lot of quirky, and while I like some of these types of films I do have my threshold.

Well, Edward Scissorhands was not such a case. It is wonderful and will likely finish as my favorite Blindspot this year. The set and costume design is wonderful. The directing is magnificent – Tim Burton provides a darkly magical film that is somewhat sad. The movie is the work of an original genius – Tim Burton before things went skew. Who would have thought to tell the story of a man with scissors as hands, and despite that alarming quality being a kind and untainted soul? I had no idea what this film was even about, and was expecting a darkish thriller fantasy thing,  and it was quite wonderful to experience it so fresh and new even though Edward Scissorhands is as old as I am because it was so much different.

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The lack of wonder a post-Jack- Sparrow Johnny Depp inspires is felt more acutely when you see him in his earlier work such as this. He is inspired, quirky, and enormously talented and manages to convey so much without moving that many face muscles. Whatever he’s become, he is truly wonderful as Edward.

Then there is Winona Ryder, who was truly really pretty as a young girl. My love for this actress has increased exponentially in the last few years – I’ve seen Heathers and then naturally the incomparable Stranger Things, in which she’s both great in despite it being decades apart. Her character Kim is the typical pretty high school cheerleader, who dates the buffoonish Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). She arrives late to the scene, where Edward is settled in and enjoying company with her family when she returns from a camping trip with said buffoon and some friends. She’s naturally quite horrified about this new addition to her family, and even the town’s clear adoration of Edward doesn’t make her too fond of him in the beginning.

Tim Burton manages to tell a story about small town America that is crafty, wildly creative and very accurate. The ice cream coloring from the houses is ghoulish and the “pretty” neighborhood has a rot beneath that is quickly revealed when you learn more about the residents. The residents dwellings are as unlike to their personalities them as Edward’s is unlike him – his is dilapidated and dark while his inside is good and kind, and the town residents have lovely homes with ugly hearts. Especially Joyce (Kathy Baker), who delivers a fine but quite scary performance of a tiger on the prowl, vicious when she doesn’t get what she wants.

The soundtrack is also so beautiful. Whimsical and sad, it highlights each moment in the story perfectly. I’d love to listen to it on other occasions. So perfect and magical.

Then naturally there is the fact that this film doesn’t make you sit long. An hour and forty minutes is all Edward Scissorhands demands from you, and not a second is wasted on unnecessary storytelling. Tim Burton expertly takes you from one surprise to another, and he never lets you get bored or disinterested.

I absolutely loved this. I still have to big movies to finish for my blindspot for 2017 – Goodwill Hunting and The Nightmare Before Christmas, so it might be a bit early to say this was my favorite one this year. What I do know right now is this is one of the films I am the likeliest to rewatch in coming years.

Rating: 9/10