Weekend movies

Ms. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children-Queen of the Desert-Inferno

I haven’t watched a movie for months so on the weekend I wasn’t being lazy and just lying around, my kids and I binged on these which incidentally are all adaptations of books:

Ms. Peregrine’s House for Peculiar Children. It follows the same dark but all’s-well-that-ends-well theme in Burton’s Alice, and if you approach it with the eyes of a child, the movie won’t disappoint. The backdrop of the story is this group’s loop circa 1943 which Ms. Peregrine, an Ymbryne, maintains with her ability to loop time. The Peculiars…it’s just amazing how one could conjure up these characters and actually put them out there on screen. I so like Ms. Peregrine (I’m a fan of Eva Green, from Bond), a darkly wacko version of Mary Poppins with her pipe-smoking and expression which The Guardian describes as one that looks like she’s privy to some joke she’s not sharing. Would real-world orphanages hire someone like her? But that’s just her appearance because she really is fierce (just look at her with that crossbow) when it comes to her brood. Like when the Hollows’ ie. bad Peculiars’ ring leader Barron (Samuel Jackson) has Jake (Asa Butterfield) hostage, and stepping into the House starts issuing commands to the children. Ms. Peregrine shushed him saying she makes the rules inside the House and that no one tells her children what to do. Barron looks taken aback and immediately obeys, a strange reaction from a bad guy. To his credit, this villain must’ve had a great relationship with his mother, ha ha! As for Ms. Peregrine, or should I say, Eva Green, her role is just so anti-Bond girl which is refreshing- I’m not a love interest, I just live for my children. For costume, I like Emma’s strap-on platform lead shoes (visuals here). So original! For CGI effects, I like how they made Emma float effortlessly (like a kite!) on the string held by Jake. This is one of the movies I could watch over and over without getting bored.

Queen of the Desert. I’m in great awe of Gertrude Bell, one of the first women who got into Oxford and eventually explored the deserts of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the 19th century, and so I had to watch this film. The story as reimagined by Herzog revolves around the reason Gertrude (Nicole Kidman) started on her desert expeditions. Devastated by her fiance, British military officer Henry Cadogan’s (James Franco) untimely shocking death, she vowed never to marry. This episode so changed her because next we see her, at the British military attache office in Syria, she’s this feisty don’t-give-me-shit version of herself. But it’s when Gertrude and her retinue of Arabs setting out across the desert on their camels, inconsequential against the ancient dunes and rock formations, that this woman’s famed courage and fortitude shine through the screen. Are there any one like her these days? Her travels were without it’s dangers though. They were rounded up once in the middle of the desert by Bedouins on stallions (which reminds me of a similar scene in The Sheik, one of the more interesting books I’ve read that’s also made into a film). Gertrude, bleeding from a shot to her arm, demanded to see their sheik who she was able to charm (they shared a love for Virgil) and so earned his protection for the rest of her journey through their land. The film depicts that this was how she was able to go about her archaeological digs in relative safety across the Peninsula eventually earning her great respect among the Bedouins. This is also implied in the film by the faithfulness and trustworthiness of Gertrude’s Bedouin assistant and valet who administered over the retinue that accompanied her throughout her expeditions. Their friendship if it can be called that ie. between a Muslim man and a white Christian aristocrat woman is something rarely heard about these days. A disconcerted British military attache asks her what attracts her to the Bedouins, to which she replies their freedom, dignity, and poetry of life, and high-handedly adding, which you can never understand. An unexpected meeting in the desert with a young Lawrence of Arabia (Robert Pattinson) drives home the point that she was the female version of Lawrence. It is also the only time in the film this formidable woman is seen at ease to the point of getting drunk and raucously laughing with the boys. But, deeper revelations into Gertrude the explorer and archaeologist are not the focus of the film. An ill-fated romance with a married British consul Doughty-Wylie (Damian Lewis) whom she met in her sojourn in Turkey is again woven into her desert explorations and it’s as if it’s for him that she had gone on exploration- I’ll make a diary for you. This is not the Gertrude the public knows although her letters to Doughty-Wylie reveal otherwise which is why there was I guess plenty of reactions to Herzog’s exploration of this side of her.

Inferno. For anyone who’s a Robert Langdon fan this second of Dan Brown’s mystery series is a must-see. But, funnily, for this series, it’s the eerily-calm mercenary terrorist “The Provost” Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan) who got me. When he was fixing the dead body of his victim, calmly talking to Langdon all the while- impressive, Khan has really become his character. I must say I haven’t gotten around to reading the book (I only went as far as three pages) so when the men going after Langdon shouted that they’re what sounded like ‘who’, I got momentarily lost. The most logical word would be WHO as in World Health Organization, is it? But how? I Googled it. I was correct, and a virus threat necessitated their presence. Ah. Then there’s the exchange between Langdon and Dr. Brooks (Felicity Jones) about Dante’s Inferno which I failed to see how that connects to the entire story. Was population growth reaching it’s zenith the inferno? I had to listen to Zobrist’ zealous words again just to understand. “Humanity is the disease! Inferno is the cure!” Oh, inferno as in infertility virus. Ha! Did the RH community want to see this? It’s incredible how Brown weaves history with conspiracy theories in this instance “the writing on the wall” ie. cerca trova (seek and ye shall find) inscripted on one of the flags borne by Siena troops on Vasari’s fresco depicting the Battle of Marciano. The words and the Battle are facts and an interesting one too, only that with Brown they’re utilized as actual clues to a made up puzzle. The Professor looks so grave working the thing out that it makes you do a double take- wait, was that true or what? which I guess is the humor in Dan Brown’s series.  The ending, involving an underwater battle for a wieldy blinking gadget that is the explosive that will spread the virus through air, is not what I expected though.

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