LABYRINTH: Fifteen-year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is so resentful of her baby brother Toby that she hopes he will just disappear. Her dream becomes reality when goblins kidnap the boy--but Sarah unexpectedly is horrified by the loss. So she sets forth to retrieve him, and finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime. To accomplish her task, she will somehow have to reach the center of the fantastical labyrinth where the wicked Goblin King (David Bowie, who performs two songs) has imprisoned the lad. But the task is easier said than done, for the maze is filled with strange creatures and mind-bending puzzles that confuse the girl. Directed by Jim Henson and penned by Monty Python's Terry Jones, LABYRINTH is a distinctive, beautifully designed dark fantasy for all ages.
THE DARK CRYSTAL: Featuring fantastical puppet flora and fauna from Muppet man Jim Henson, this dark but wonderful children's movie follows Jen and Kira, two young Gelflings who are the last of their kind, as they try to fulfill the prophecy of the Dark Crystal. Jen's wise master reveals on his deathbed that only a Gelfling will mend the crystal that cracked 1,000 years ago and placed the land under the dark rule of the evil, selfish Skeksis. To break the prophecy, the Skeksis killed all the Gelflings, and only Jen and Kira escaped their wrath. Now, though, Jen and Kira must journey into the heart of the Skeksis castle to reach the crystal and return the land to its former goodness.
Like all good children's movies, THE DARK CRYSTAL contains enough scary elements to keep the tension tight and the kids enthralled, while the puppet mastery will impress and tickle adults. THE DARK CRYSTAL was the first co-directorial effort of Frank Oz, who went on to direct THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, IN & OUT, and BOWFINGER, among many other comedies.
MIRRORMASK: Reminiscent of ALICE IN WONDERLAND and LABYRINTH, MIRRORMASK is a fantasy tale of an intelligent young girl on a journey through a magical world. It is also a visually astounding piece of filmmaking, updating the fairy-tale quest in a coming-of-age story imbued with dark beauty. Written by Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN) and directed by his frequent collaborator and illustrator, Dave McKean, the film mixes live action and animation, and manages to keep the graphic novelist's aesthetic largely intact: the frames are full of weirdly-skewed perspectives, foggy patches, and mismatched textures that appear grandly decayed. Stephanie Leonidas plays Helena, a young girl who juggles in her father's circus, but longs for a "normal" life. She spends her free time drawing elaborate, fantastical black-and-white pictures which cover every surface of her bedroom. One night, after an argument with her mother (Gina McKee) during which Helena lets fly some rather painful pronouncements, Mom falls ill with an unspecified affliction. As the family waits for news and the circus struggles financially, Helena blames herself for the misfortune. The night before her mother's surgery, Helena is mysteriously transported to a world that bears a strong resemblance to her own drawings, and is populated by strange creatures who follow an even stranger logic. Helena and her traveling companion, fellow juggler Valentine (Jason Barry), sign on to find a mysterious charm that will wake the queen of the city--also played by McKee--from her deep sleep, defeating the forces of darkness and returning Helena home. The film's outstanding art direction is complemented by witty dialogue and some genuinely creepy moments (the words "don't let them see you're afraid" are chill-inducing). Meanwhile, Leonidas's performance is remarkable, maintaining a likeability, charm, and freshness that is all the more amazing considering it was delivered against a green screen, with her special-effect co-stars edited in later.