Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

CAPSULE: MIRRORMASK (2005)

DIRECTED BY: Dave McKean

FEATURING: Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon

PLOT: A bratty teenager who works as a juggler in her parents’ circus is transported to a devious world of her own imagination after her mother falls ill.  With the help of a cowardly juggler, she navigates a crumbling surrealistic city where everyone wears masks in search of a charm that will help bring her back to her own life.
Still from MirrorMask (2005)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While Dave McKean’s impressively out-there creature and set design certainly gives MirrorMask some memorable visuals, the story and characters are lifted right out of typical fantasy stock, resulting in a beautiful but ultimately conventional movie.  366weirdmovies adds: I agree that MirrorMask shouldn’t go on the List; but, I will admit that when the androids popped out of their pods and gave the heroine a “bad girl” makeover while singing a weirdly harmonized version of the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” I was strongly tempted to nominate it as a Candidate.

COMMENTS: Popular fantasy author Neil Gaiman teamed up Dave McKean, the cover artist for his “Sandman” comics, delivering a script that revisits themes from his young adult book Coraline (which itself draws on archetypes found in The Wizard of Oz and “Alice in Wonderland“) for a movie that recalls the wild, inventive imagery of “Sandman” and his Neverwhere BBC miniseries.  MirrorMask is an allegorical adventure about a girl who grows up quickly, redeeming her past selfish actions through new-found respect for her parents and her own talents.  It’s a family film, and is at times bogged down by patronizing, simplistic dialogue and obvious symbolism, including a world literally divided by “Light” and “Shadow.”  There’s even a girl whose clear displays of “evilness” are fishnet stockings, cigarettes, and (gasp!) kissing a boy.

For all its narrative flaws, the film still charms with the help of a talented cast.  Stephanie Leonidas is excellent as Helena, effectively capturing the many moods of a teenage girl while still creating a sympathetic character.  Jason Barry works well with his chatty, comic-relief sidekick character, despite the inherent cliches in his personality.  But it’s Gina McKee in her triple role as Helena’s mother, the “Queen of Light”, and the “Queen of Darkness” who really Continue reading CAPSULE: MIRRORMASK (2005)

CAPSULE: CORALINE (2009)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Henry Selick

FEATURING: Dakota Fanning (voice), Teri Hatcher (voice)

PLOT:  A petulant little girl finds a parallel universe behind a hidden door in an old house, a world where her parents are more attentive, her neighbors more fascinating, and the entire universe seems set up to pamper and delight her; she can stay there forever, but of course there’s a catch.

Still from Coraline (2009)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  I attended a screening with a ten-year old and asked him if he thought the movie was “weird.”  His answer: “Nah, not unless you think every fantasy movie is weird.”  Smart lad.

COMMENTSCoraline is a welcome dark fantasy for children, although its themes of evil Doppelgänger moms, frightening buttons, and implied eye-gouging are too scary for very little ones.  Since it’s from Hanry Selick, the director of the borderline weird Nightmare Before Christmas, we suspect going in that the art direction and stop-motion animation will be the real stars.   Selick does not disappoint, shuffling the viewer through three distinct visual styles: the dingy earth tones of real life, a brightly colored, eye-popping fantasy world, and a sinister, disintegrating universe with an insect trapped in a spiderweb theme.  The storyline, and the unexpected scares once the movie shifts from childhood fantasy to childhood horror in the third act, make Coraline more than just eye candy for the kiddies.

Presented in theaters in 3-D, but the novelty doesn’t add anything significant to experience: I would have been just as happy to watch the same moving pictures tell the same story on an unabashedly flat screen.  Though there’s nothing really weird to be found here, Coraline, in the best children’s’ movie tradition, is worth a trip even for adult fans of fantasy and pure escapism.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Coraline discovers a Wonderland filled with surreal characters and dark implications that make a kid grow up quick… those who tough it out with this twisted, trippy adventure in impure imagination will only be the better for it.”–Peter Travers, Rolling Stone