September 28, 2016

#StayPeculiar • The Charms of the Peculiar

When I got the invitation to attend an early screening of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (in theaters this Friday, September 30!), I was pretty psyched! Unfortunately, things did not work out in my favor, and I couldn't be there in person. Lucky for you guys, however, my husband Macky (who is actually the one between us who has read the book already) could be there and so, you'll get to see his thoughts today! We're so grateful to the lovely folk at 20th Century Fox for the invitation. Without further ado, here's a look at Macky's experience (and a few sneak peeks as well)!

This will be part one of the short, but concise account of my foray into press tours and advance movie screenings. Mine fair wife that runneth ye auld book blog managed to secure for me a chance to see the movie, meet the author, legendary costume designer and lead actors, and I can honestly say I am deeply grateful to have volunteered for this mission she would not have otherwise been able to complete herself.

Having only finished the book on the subway ride from Queens to the theater, I am anxious and excited, filled with the usual (and in this case, very fresh) fan bias towards the book. But before these musings could take on more malignant neurotic form, the lights go out in this tiny theatre, and I lean back on the plush seats to let the great Tim Burton tell me a Ransom Riggs story in moving pictures and sounds.

Even on paper, this already has all the elements of a successful film. Brilliant source material - check. A writing/directing/production team that can only be described as “hand in glove”, in terms of how fit they are to translate the source material to film - check. A cast of able actors - check.

As I sat there watching the story unfold, Mr. Burton completely creating a totally new world while at the same time stamping his trademarks all over it… It was nothing short of magical. Visually stunning, elaborately developed and yet meticulously detailed, the movie tells an “else-worlds” version of what transpired in Cairholm from the moment Jacob Portman decided to see for himself if his grandfather’s tall tales were really just that.

It’s got the heart and soul of the book, but purists be warned. This is not a 100% faithful attempt to translate a beloved novel into a movie. So, for lovers of the book, take this as your grain of salt lest you be salty yourselves: treat it as Tim Burton’s take on (or homage to) Ransom Rigg’s first book. It’s well made, well thought out, certainly not perfect (and I wish I was so far removed from reading the book that I could have been a better critic of its flaws)... but all in all, it promises memorable characters and a Miss Peregrine I quite honestly prefer to the book version. 

Tim Burton movies are like works of art that you can almost spot a mile away if you know how to look (and no, Helena Bonham Carter is not necessarily the dead giveaway). I believe this is one of his best. Of course, it helps that the source material is extremely rich (and will thus get its own review outside of all this cross-media exposure).

If you’re on the fence about seeing the movie, and you love the book, take moment to let it sink in that it’s not a direct translation. If you have not read the book but are a Tim Burton fan, WATCH IT. It’s got all the lovely twisty campy darkness wrapped in stunning visuals that are part of his trademark. And if you haven’t read the books, and aren’t a Tim Burton fan, but like a little bit of gothic horror and coming of age with your whimsy, go take a chance on this movie.

Shortly after the film, we are led to the Ritz Carlton, where a three session panel interview has been scheduled. First up, we have Ransom Riggs, In comes Mister Riggs, dressed in a brown coat, very young and fresh looking, bright eyed and eager to answer any questions. It is here that I discover (quite early on in the session through the first few questions asked) that he has not only looked up to Tim Burton for the last 25 years of his life, but is also quite pleased and quite happy with how the movie had turned out.

As someone who took forever to appreciate the Harry Potter movies and was eventually very surprised to find out that JK Rowling herself has a special place in her heart for them, I can TOTALLY understand the vitriol that comes with having a beloved book, transmogrified into something other than how a fan perceives it to be. But as an aspiring writer and creative person of a sort, I also have learned (in my older age) to take a good look at what the creator thinks about their work being turned into movies. Anyone who has Google and bothers to care will be able to learn that Stephen King was not crazy about Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining". And that’s putting it lightly.

So to have Ransom Riggs fanboy his way through explaining what it was like to have Tim Burton create a film based on his work was a personal treat. I had the pleasure of asking him how much he worked with Tim Burton (sadly, not much) and what were his favorite things that really came to life on screen.  He had fun answering that last question, zeroing in on some elements that he himself did not write in the first book to point of geeking out about them with us (who got the see the movie in 3D) about how 3D actually made those scenes better. He then moves on to say how he loved some of the “quieter, less flashy” bits of the movie where Tim Burton is able to capture the first few moments Jacob explores whatever he finds in Cairnholm, as well as how well the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather was portrayed.
"And honestly, he gets the relationship between Jacob and his grandfather so right, and it becomes like the emotional core, this engine that drives the whole movie, in much the way I intended that relationship to work in the book. And I was really excited to see. It hits all these marks that are not easy to hit because it's an unusual relationship, you know, like a boy who's best friends with his grandpa. - Ransom Riggs"
I can only imagine how wonderful it was to have these important elements brought to life in such an impressive way for Mister Riggs. First, as a filmmaker, because he is apparently a film school grad and self-professed film nerd. Second, as a writer whose work is being brought to life in a powerful, visual medium. For him to have a filmmaker he looks up to, whose body of work just so happens to be the wheelhouse that his mishmash genre novel fits into and to have this filmmaker create something that was even more than you hoped for - that must be incredible.

We end this session with a group photo, where I also got to shake his hand and tell him his book was awesome. Even if the day had ended here, it would have already been magnificent. But there was another treat coming our way - the legendary costume designer Colleen Atwood.

Now, this is a tale of being starstruck after the fact. I mean, I have no eye for costumes really, beyond the simple recognition of the exquisite badassery in the concept and execution, or lack of the same. But when it was revealed that Colleen had been working with Tim Burton since Edward Scissorhands, that got my attention. I'm fairly ignorant of these kinds of things as I'm not a film enthusiast from a production perspective, but to meet someone with such legendary resume entries was a delight.

The conversation lingered a bit on shoes, and she shared many a lovely anecdote about how many of the young cast had limited to no experience in wearing good ol' leather shoes. For the team under her leadership, they had to play the "comfort patrol" card more than for a full adult cast, because they schedule could certainly be affected by how comfortable they were in what they wear.

The last and final session of the day involves a group of actors starring in the film - Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Lauren McCrostie & Finlay Macmillan. These four radiant young'uns walk into the conference room, and immediately, a different buzz fills the air.

First comes Ella Purnell, sans the golden hair she has in the film. Dark brown hair frames her lovely face, evoking the memory of a very young Marion Cotillard and much closer to the book version of Emma versus the movie Emma she actually portrays. It is eventually revealed that she decided to create a completely different character for Emma in the movie, and stayed away from the source material so that her take wouldn't be influenced in any way. It's a good call on her part, as movie Emma is certainly extremely different from book Emma in her peculiarity.

Lauren McCrostie arrives with her, blonde and charming, with not a trace of the red hair she sports in the film as she takes on the role of Olive. She was a little shy, and in that way, closer to her film persona. She immediately comes off as sweet and gracious about the opportunity to work with Tim Burton on a film of this scale.

Next is Finlay MacMillan, who brings to life the necromantic Enoch. He was earnest and polite, and it was incredibly disconcerting to see such a well-mannered, good-looking young man in place of the sour, cynical, combative, creepy character he portrays. 

Last, and certainly not least, Asa Butterfield takes a seat. I personally love his work, and it was a treat to be a few chairs away from him. It was when they were asked about what their takeaway was from making a film like this one that he took the reins a bit, and spoke on everyone's behalf. He mentioned that it was the friendships that matters most, though he didn't have time to elaborate on how they bonded. However, you could tell from how they occasionally finished each other's sentences, or deferred to each other's answers, that whatever bonds they'd formed over the course of filming really took root.

And so, I end this apparently not-so-short account of my press junket experience. Would that all similar experiences would be like this, but like most great experiences in life, they’re lighting-in-a-bottle moments that you just gotta learn to love while they’re there.

And there you have it, folks, Macky's recounting of his experience at the early screening and roundtable interviews for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children! Be sure and catch the film when it's out in theaters this Friday, September 30. And a huge thank you, once again, to 20th Century Fox for inviting us to participate in this event!

I'm including a bit more information about the film below, including the book trailer, synopsis, social media links and ticket purchase links. Definitely check them all out! I've always enjoyed seeing the trailer ever since it came out, and I hope find yourself intrigued as well.

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" Links:  
Visit the Official Site | Like on Facebook | Follow on Twitter & Instagram

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in theaters Friday.

From visionary director Tim Burton, and based upon the best-selling novel, comes an unforgettable motion picture experience. When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies. Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson / Directed By: Tim Burton / Rated PG-13

Seek the Peculiar. Get tickets to see Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in theaters Friday.


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