Thursday, 3 September 2015


I'm going to be fully honest and admit that I might be a little biased with this movie.
And not just because of how much I love stop motion.
This was actually the very first thing I ever watched in HD. On a 50" HDTV.
It was glorious.
But this blog is about the DVD version, so now that I've had HD for a few years, was it really that amazing?
Unusually for movies of this day and age, it opens with credits listing the actor's names.
As well as some truly amazing music. Which unfortunately I can't link to because there isn't a good version on Youtube.
But seriously, it's amazing.
Then things take a turn for the creepy as a hand made of needles takes a doll apart and puts it back together again as a different doll.
And after.
This is incredibly effective. It's creepy, it's lovingly detailed and it makes no sense at all.
As the doll floats through the window we transition to a pink house with a Russian man doing exercises on the roof.
Previously owned by a teenaged witch, or so I hear.
This house is called the Pink Palace apartments and some new people are moving in.
The neighbours take an interest, providing momentary cameos before their big reveals.
Including the skinniest cat in the world.
The cat watches as a young girl with blue hair exits via the back door and explores the garden.
And to make the opening scene a lot creepier, she looks exactly like the doll did.
This girl.
That's Coraline, as played by Dakota Fanning. She gets scared by the cat and runs into the woods, where she meets her future nightmares.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Rider?
As thunder and lightning provide atmosphere he rides down to her and snatches the stick out of her hand and lifts up his mask to reveal his true form.
A black nerd. Huh, didn't see that coming.
They chat for a little, with Coraline understandably annoyed at his lack of introduction. And the fact that he called her a water witch, since she was using the stick as a dowsing rod to find an old well.
Three guesses where the old well is.
The nerd kid mentions that his grandma owns the Pink palace and doesn't rent it to people with kids, though he doesn't say why. He finally introduces himself as Wybie, which is short for 'Why born?' and hints at a very miserable home life.
Considering his reaction when they hear his grandma calling him, it seems I'm right on the money.
Though despite Coraline being mean to him, he still warns her that her dowsing rod is a piece of poison oak.
Though that rash doesn't look too bad.
Obviously she went inside and we get to meet her parents, Absent-Minded and Distracted, aka Mr and Mrs Jones.
Sadly, she is not a super-spy.
Her mother is too distracted by writing an article for a gardening magazine (despite hating gardening) to pay attention to Coraline. They almost argue but don't and her mother hands her something a kid dropped off earlier that day (Oh yeah, it's the next day, the transition wasn't very clear about that).
It's a package with a note from Wybie and you'll never guess what was inside it.
This explains... Absolutely nothing. The huh?
Coraline leaves and checks in on her dad, who's essentially doing the exact same thing as her mother, just in another room.
And he looks like a cross between Hugh Laurie and Hugh Grant. Shame there's no Hugh Jackman in there.
Coraline tries to get some attention out of him, but he's of course too busy working and shoos her away, encouraging her to explore the house.
So we've got a family moving into a new house (From out of town/State no less) where the parents are workaholics who ignore their daughter. And the only person she's met her age is the weird nerd kid.
If it weren't for the oddness of the doll and the gorgeous animation, I would probably have turned this off by now.
As it is, Coraline starts exploring the house with little Coraline and taking notes.
Although the only note I'm taking is that making your main character left-handed to show how different they are isn't that different of a thing to do.
After some antics whilst exploring the house Coraline enters a blue room with a box full of snowglobes.
As she puts the globes on the mantlepiece the doll somehow moves from the table to behind a picture frame propped against a wall. Coraline retrieves it, only to find a small door.
This isn't ominous at all.
She asks her mother about it, but of course her mother is trying to work. But Coraline gets her mother to relent using the oldest trick in the book.
Puppy dog eyes.
She even does the whimpering noise.
Her mother searches through a drawer literally filled with keys and finds only one that's the right shape, which has an odd button-shaped handle.
But when they open the door they find nothing but a bricked wall.
Pictured: The perfect metaphor for my creative writing. Or my love life. Or my career.
Later on it's still raining and the dad has cooked dinner. Not only does it look disgusting (I think it's some sort of vegan lasagne) but he feels the need to sing about it.
This house has some odd lighting decisions.
Notably Coraline has started to become attached to the doll, even beginning to talk to it and make it nod. As she goes to bed she holds a picture of her old friends from Michigan, who're apparently Harry Potter and Ron Weasly.
Coraline and Hermione have a lot in common. In that their parents are deathly boring.
As she goes to sleep we're treated to a very odd sequence where the small door opens by itself and what looks like a vine grows out of the bricks.
How whimsical. And weird.
Coraline is woken by the sounds of a mouse, which she follows until it vanishes into the now closed door.
But when she opens it she doesn't find a wall, instead she finds the Doctor Who opening sequence.
You're thinking of the theme song now.
Coraline of course climbs through it until she reaches the door at the other end and emerges into the exact room she just left.
Coraline's confused by this, though she's even more confused by the fact that the painting on the wall has changed. But she gets distracted by the smell of tasty food and goes to investigate, finding what looks like her mother preparing food.
But when her mother turns around, the camera zooms in to her face.
Nope. Just nope. All of the nope.
That is beyond creepy. If I ever met anyone with buttons instead of eyes I would run screaming and never look back.
Coraline is of course very freaked out by this but this creatures introduces itself as Coraline's other mother. She tells Coraline to get her other father from his study and, despite still being weirded out, Coraline complies. And when she enters the study, she finds her other father as expected.
And now he looks more like That Guy With The Glasses.
Only less creepy.
The other father is of course incredibly charming and witty and he treats Coraline to a musical number on his piano.
After the song they have dinner, which is of course a full three course meal.
Although notably (There's a lot to note about this movie) while the other father digs in, the other mother doesn't even put any food onto her plate.
And she hasn't even turned her creepiness up to max yet.
Coraline does start to have doubts when they hand her a cake saying 'Welcome home' and she tries to make excuses to leave, but the other mother stymies them. Coraline says that she needs to go to bed and the other mother takes Coraline to 'her' room.
Personally I don't think it's pink enough.
Coraline goes to sleep and wakes up back in her normal bedroom. She excitedly runs back to the door but finds it still bricked up. Chalking it up as a dream she tells her parents about it at breakfast. Her dad jokes with her about it but her mother is still obsessed about work and tells Coraline to go visit the downstairs neighbours, Spink and Forcible.
Whom she had previously described as 'Dingbats' which in my lexicon is a compliment.
But as she steps out of the front door she finds a whole pile of parcels for her upstairs neighbour, Bobinsky.
I can only assume he's the upstairs neighbour. I mean, the signs are there.
Coraline takes the packages upstairs and knocks on his door but gets no answer. When she leans on it it opens though and she steps inside, finding the place empty.
But Bobinsky appears behind her and closes the door, rambling something about a jumping mouse circus that isn't ready yet.
He's a tad weird.
They talk for a bit and Coraline introduces herself, but he confuses it for Caroline, just like Wybie did earlier. This appears to be something that gets on her wick, as the saying goes.
Coraline leaves and grabs her weed-cutters. As she rounds the side of the house however, Bobinsky calls her name and jumps down.
Either this man's a eunuch, or he has no fear of becoming one.
Bobinsky tells her that his mice wanted to warn her not to go through the little door. Coraline's confused since the door's still bricked up, but Bobinsky says that it's probably fine then since the mice sometimes get mixed up. They even called her Coraline.
This should be enough of a clue that the mice know more than Bobinsky thinks, but Coraline doesn't notice. Instead, she retrieves her hat from the car and goes to visit Spink and Forcible.
If you think they look like French and Saunders, it's because they're French and Saunders.
They're both very nice and friendly, although the word 'Dingbats' is most apt. They argue with each other over tea, tarot cards and tea leaves.
Although the tea leaves apparently imply that Coraline's in danger.
Once she leaves, she bumps into Wybie, whom she's rather abrasive towards.
At least, she is until they find a banana slug.
Wybie and Coraline chat about his grandma and her history with the Pink Palace. Most specifically how she had a twin sister who she says was stolen.
As they talk the cat seems to pay close attention, until he suddenly turns around and growls at the doll.
Didn't she leave that on the chair next to her bed?
That night the mice return and Coraline follows them through the door.
This time the other mother tells Coraline that her father's in the garden and when Coraline goes to find him, she's treated to this scene.
I'm disappointed that the moon isn't a button.
The other father is on this weird mechanical mantis doing gardening. And it is gorgeous. Every plant is interesting and the pond even has pumpkins used as fountains. It makes no sense, but it's really nice to look at, especially when the camera zooms out.
Now imagine if Coraline had brown hair. Wouldn't be so impressive would it?
As they eat the other mother plays with some flowers, but her plate is once again conspicuously empty.
But once they've finished the other mother tells Coraline that Bobinsky has invited her to see the jumping mice perform. She also introduces the other Wybie.
Once again Coraline is abrasive but the other Wybie just smiles. When Coraline asks why he doesn't speak, the other mother says that it's because she 'fixed him' so that Coraline would like him.
This should be ringing many alarm bells.
Despite the fact that Coraline was laughing with Wybie earlier, she says she approves of the change and goes to see Bobinsky.
Yeah, Coraline's kinda selfish at the moment.
But anyway, they get to Bobinsky and watch his jumping mice circus. Just like the garden sequence earlier, it is stunning.
They even get her name right.
The mice jump in time to music, which is great fun to watch in stop motion. Eventually it does end and they get to meet the other Bobinsky who's a little different from the original.
Did he join the black parade?
Coraline once again goes to sleep and wakes up in her original room, this time expressing disappointment. Later that day she's trying to describe it to her parents in the car but they're not interested since they're in town to hand over their work to the publisher.
And buy Coraline her new school uniform.
Coraline finds a pair of gloves she likes but her mother says to put them back.
Thus proving that her mother has better fashion sense.
They get back to the house with Coraline in a huff, which doesn't improve when her mother has to leave again to get food. Once she's alone Coraline goes in search of the key to the small door.
Her parents are really bad at hiding things.
Coraline opens the door and finds the tunnel. As she excitedly goes through it the camera pans out to reveal that the cat has been watching her.
Curiosity killed the cat you know.
Coraline finds a box and a note from the other mother. Inside the box is a new outfit and the note tells her that Spink and Forcible are waiting to see her.
So Coraline gets changed and goes outside, only to find the cat sitting on the porch roof, watching her.
I think this goes beyond just being curious.
Coraline starts talking to the cat, assuming that he's the other cat. But he suddenly starts speaking, saying that he is the same cat. And the best thing about it is that he does it in the voice of the holy man from Chronicles of Riddick.
And I only just realised that my Riddick review had very few pictures.
The cat warns Coraline that the other mother isn't as nice as she seems, but he gets distracted by something and runs off.
Coraline brushes off his warning and goes to meet the other Spink and Forcible.
She finds this. She does not run away, because she's apparently insane.
Coraline sits down next to the other Wybie and they watch the play, which starts out as a pretty funny but still brain bleach-inducing comdey about to old women who think they're still hot.
But then they step out of their skins to reveal that it was a bunch of costumes, showing off the bodies they once had.
Oh, and they quote a Hamlet speech, the classic "What a piece of work is man".
A woman's place is in the kitchen making sammiches.
And then eating them, because they look malnourished.
As Coraline and Wybie leave the other mother and father are there waiting for them. Wybie looks depressed as he leaves, but Coraline doesn't notice.
The other mother tells her that she can stay, but to do so she would have to replace her eyes with buttons.
And I can never look at sewing needles the same way again.
Coraline finally gets freaked out and she decides that she needs to leave, saying that she's tired and needs to sleep on it.
So she goes to bed in her other room, fully expecting to wake up in her normal room, just like every other time.
Oh snap!
Panicking, oraline tries to open the room with the door but it's been locked. She goes to the other father's study to confront him, but every time he tries to tell her something the piano's hands grab him and threaten him. Coraline panics even further and runs out of the house, trying to find somewhere else to go.
But after some walking, she finds something else instead.
Well, technically she finds nothing.
While they walk the cat and Coraline chat about the other mother. The cat's not sure what the other mother wants, but it's definitely not good for Coraline. But then come back to the house, despite having walked directly away from it.
As the cat explained, the whole world was created by the other mother purely to impress Coraline, so it isn't very big.
The other mother reminds me of the Elves from Discworld. A parasitic race that live in a parasitic dimension, living only by draining from a full dimension that they're attached to.
And unimaginably cruel.
But as they reach the house the cat suddenly dives into a bush and comes out with a mouse in his mouth.
Eh, it was just the trumpeter anyway.
So after the cat kills the mouse it turns back into a rat and stuffing falls out of it's mouth. I think that means that it wasn't ever really alive to begin with.
After the cat runs off Coraline takes a walking stick to the locked door and busts through, finding the small door open. But as she approaches it a beetle-shaped wardrobe moves to block it and the room lights up.
Well, someone certainly likes their bug theme.
The other mother starts off very polite, offering Coarline some chocolate, but when Coraline demands to be allowed home the mother starts getting angry.
And you really wouldn't like her when she's angry.
She grabs Coraline and drags her away, throwing her into a room hidden behind a magical mirror that she can't escape.
And that's when she meets the ghosts.
Huh, buttons for eyes are less creepy if you're a ghost.
They explain that they're children the other mother took, although they call her the Beldam. Beldam is an old word that means witch, but it's also close to a classic English poem called The Belle Dame Sans Merci.
Yes, it's a French name but it's an English poem, about a knight who finds a beautiful woman who professes her love to him, but purely so she can drain him and leave him to die.
Reminds me of some girls I've dated.
Anyway, the ghosts explain that the Beldam spied on their lives through the doll and lured them away so she could feed on them until they wasted away.
But she couldn't do any actual feeding until they had replaced their eyes with buttons.
And once she had their eyes, she had them.
Just as Coraline says that she'll try to find their eyes for them, she gets grabbed and dragged back through the mirror by other Wybie, who looks a little different than the last time we saw him.
And here I thought he was creepy enough before.
Coraline removes the stitches holding his mouth like that and he sneaks her to the small door. She tries to take him with her but he just shakes his head and removes his glove, his hand crumbling to dust.
Then he closes the door so that Coraline has to go through the tunnel.
Not quite as inviting this time around.
Once she's home she locks the small door and calls out to her parents, who don't answer. She looks everywhere for them but can't find them, instead finding her mother's groceries, which have gone mouldy.
The doorbell rings and she answers, finding Wybie at the door. He asks for the doll back because it belonged to his grandma's sister and Coraline puts two and two together and figures out that it was used to lure the sister away.
Coraline drags Wybie into the house and starts explaining everything, but he of course thinks she's gone nuts.
And it's not helped when Coraline tells him to ask the cat.
Not gonna lie, this would probably be my reaction.
Wybie runs out of the house chased by Coraline. She finds her mother's car, but it's empty.
So she does what any responsible child should do and tells her neighbours.
Spink and Forcible at first muck about with their usual antics, but they do give Coraline some advice and a small stone with a hole in it that's supposed to allow her to see bad things. Or lost things.
They argue a lot.
Characters voiced by French and Saunders arguing? Never!
So Coraline goes to sleep in her parents bed, crying. In the morning she's woken up by the cat. She asks if he knows where her parents are and he leads her to the real world version of the mirror from before. Looking into it Coraline sees a vision of her parents, freezing to death.
Magic mirrors never seem to foretell anything good.
The cat comforts Coraline before taking her back to her parents room and dragging something out from beneath their bed.
This raises many questions.
Coraline burns the doll in the fire and makes her plans. She's decided to go rescue them.
She gears up, taking a body warmer, her hat, the weed-cutters and the stone.
Then she opens the door and crawls through.
As she does so the cat comes with her, speaking almost as soon as he crosses into it. Despite knowing it's a trap he has an idea to challenge the Beldam, knowing she has a weakness for games.
Once she gets to the other side the Beldam is waiting for her, along with the other father who looks a little different.
That's what happens if you drink too many pumpkin spice lattes.
The Beldam uses one of her rats to get the key, which she uses to lock the door before swallowing it.
The key that is, not the door.
As they eat breakfast Coraline proposes the game. She has to find her parents and the eyes of the ghost children in order for them all to escape.
But the Beldam insists on a time limit and if Coraline fails, she'll replace her eyes with buttons.
The Beldam even gives Coraline a clue.
She says that the eyes are hidden in the three wonders she's made for Coraline.
So Coraline goes out to the garden to search and gets attacked by the plants. After fending them off she's attacked by the hummingbirds which try to steal the stone. After retrieving it she looks through the hole and spots a glowing orb.
Sadly, that orb is attached to the mechanical mantis, which tries to kill her.
I wouldn't want to bump into this in a dark alley. Or a light one. Or anywhere else actually.
The bridge collapses beneath the mantis and the other father hands Coraline the eye just before he plunges into the water. With the eye in her possession, the whole area turns pure white and freezes, presumably meaning that it only existed because of the eye.
Coraline notices a shadow moving over the moon and rushes down to the theatre where other Spink and Forcible performed.
She sneaks to the stage where she finds a giant candy dangling.
Looking through the stone she notices the second eye, but she gets a shock when she reaches for it.
They're just angry because they hadn't had a chance to put on their makeup.
Coraline manages to snatch the second eye and the whole theatre turns white and freezes. With little time left she runs to the other Bobinsky's, where she finds his suit moving around, trying to talk her out of it.
And who wouldn't listen to this guy?
Coraline grabs his hat and takes it off, only to release a horde of rats holding the last eye. She tries to stop them but they escape and she crashes into the balcony, which starts to collapse.
Just as Coraline starts to lose hope of winning, the cat returns with the eye and the rat's head, proclaiming that he never liked them much anyway.
It occurs to me that I could have been calling him Salem this entire time. I even had the teenage witch joke set up and everything.
Just as Coraline puts the eye in her bag the entire outside world begins to collapse around them. The cat jumps into her bag and they make it just in time.
Although the inside doesn't fare much better either.
As they enter the final room the Beldam is waiting for them and she does not look too good.
She's just skin and bones. And needles.
They talk a bit, confirming that Coraline has the eyes. But she still needs to find the parents and the Beldam has the stone, which she throws into the fire.
Coraline thinks quickly, realising that even if she wins the Beldam won't let her go. So when the Beldam asks where the parents are, Coraline says that they're behind the small door.
The Beldam, being a movie villain, decides to brag and opens the door to prove her wrong.
And that's when Coraline throws the cat into her face.
Coraline grabs the snowglobe containing her parents from the mantlepiece (Remember those, they've been in the background the whole time) and makes a run for it.
The Beldam tries to catch her but Coraline makes it just in time, closing the door on her hand and cutting it off.
Ummm, ew.
After locking the door from the other side and putting the key in her bag, Coraline notices that the snowglobe on the mantlepiece has broken. Her parents choose just that moment to return through the front door and despite the snow on their clothes they have no memory of what happened.
Of course, it's not quite over yet. That night Coraline's mother hands her a present, which turns out to be the gloves she wanted.
They actually match her pyjamas.
The cat returns and Coraline apologises before putting the eyes beneath her pillow for the night. Once they've gone to sleep the ghosts visit her dream and thank her, but they also warn her that the Beldam isn't dead, not fully, and it will come for her.
But as she leaves to throw the key down the well, something comes through the small door.
I wonder if anyone's ever written up stats to make this a D&D monster.
The needle hand follows Coraline through the woods until she reaches the well and pulls out the key, when it attacks her.
Luckily, a friend arrives to save the day.
Remember at the beginning, when we thought that this was the creepiest sight we'd see?
The needle hand attacks Wybie and he crashes his bike, sliding straight into the well and barely catching hold of the edge. The needle hand clambers out and starts stabbing his fingers, but Coraline saves the day.
So it's rocks fall, monster dies?
Coraline uses her shawl to wrap up the remains of the needle hand with the rock, tieing it all up with the key and dumping it down the well.
I think Wybie believes her crazy story now.
And so the movie ends with Coraline and her parents having a gardening party with all of their neighbours, including Wybie's grandma.
And she stoops her neck less than her grandson does.
This movie was simply amazing. Sure, the setup was rather cliche with the girl and her neglectful parents moving into a new area. And Coraline really wasn't very nice at the beginning. I get the distinct impression that if it weren't for the events of the movie she would have grown up to be just as bad as her mother.
As it was though it serves as a good cautionary tale about getting what you want at the expense of your family.
For the kid, and for the parents.

Next week we move on to the letter D and we're back with the Caped Crusader. Or at least, the terrible gravelly-voiced version we're forced to endure these days.

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