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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

“Do You Know Why I Admire You, Newt? You Do Not Seek Power. You Simply Ask, “Is A Thing… Right..?”

Not being the biggest fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film back in 2015, the three year wait for the second entry in the ever-expanding “Wizarding World” franchise to focus on Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything) Newt Scamander was undoubtedly filled with notions on how exactly they could make a film with such talented performers become something I could actually enjoy. Directed by the steady hand of David Yates, a filmmaker who has helmed everything linked to the words of J. K. Rowling since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Crimes of Grindelwald reunites Scamander with both friends and foes whilst introducing the likes of Jude Law (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as a younger, trimmer Albus Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as the central and titular antagonist after Colin Farrell (Widows) was seen in the previous movie to simply be a jaw-dropping falsehood. Whilst swapping the likes of Farrell for Depp feels similar to trading your beautiful Aston Martin for a raggedy, temperamental French coupe with a penchant for stalling, such a trade feels only like a faint blip in the spectrum of issues prevalent in The Crimes of Grindelwald, a convoluted and needlessly tedious second wind which suffers from the simple fact of being a franchise entry which is all filler, no killer, and whilst there are particular elements which bring forth memories of what makes Rowling’s world so magical and delightful, Yates’ latest is unfortunately a wizarding tale of woe which fails to recreate the best the franchise has offered in the past.

Central to the film’s maddening issues is undoubtedly Rowling’s script, a convoluted, messy and particularly confusing work of madness which features zero threat, makes zero sense and is bogged down by a range of two dimensional, underdeveloped characters who come and go without clearly laying down their individual intentions or overall purpose to the story. With Depp ironically the best thing in the entire movie, his Billy Idol inspired look and Bono-esque sanctimonious villainous speeches failed to prevent me from cheering inside every time he came on screen, particularly when alternative company elsewhere became more and more boring with every passing minute, and even with the inclusion of the wonderful  Zoë Kravitz as a conflicted, troublesome auror adding to list of powerful female actors carried over from the first film, her performance is let down by wonky character development and a overarching sense of her talent’s being well and truly wasted. With awful camera work which featured a mix between jaded, snapshot editing and invasive facial shots which looked like the work of a drunk and drugged up Sergio Leone, one of the more obvious issues is cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s decision to mask the film in a bland, murky colour pallette, which although managed to echo the bland and lifeless feel of the film to a tee, also felt like a DC Universe interpretation of the Harry Potter franchise by failing to handle the darker aspects of the narrative and instead becoming a painful slog into unrepenting murkiness. Whilst the likes of Jude Law and even Eddie Redmayne, an actor who I still can’t fully get on board with, try their absolute best to bring some sense of dramatic pull to the action, an impressive musical score and wardrobe aside can’t paint over the fact that for a film which lasts nearly 140 minutes, nothing memorable actually seems to happen, and with gargantuan, bewildering plot twists crammed into a indecipherable final ten minutes, The Crimes of Grindelwald is somehow less fantastic than its’ mediocre predecessor.

Overall Score: 4/10

Film Review: Early Man

“The Age Of Stone Is Over. Long Live The Age Of Bronze…”

Best known for his work on the many forms of Wallace & Gromit and the ever-charming Shaun the Sheep franchise, Nick Park is undoubtedly the first name which springs to mind whenever the art form of stop-motion animation comes into discussion, and his return to the big-screen this week in the form of Early Man is one which reminds how much of a delicate and impressive pastime such a particular form of expressive freedom actually is, and with the likes of Chicken Run and 2015’s rather surreal Shaun the Sheep Movie both proving financially and critically successful, the cinematic appeal of stop-motion still applies more than ever. Utilising an equally impressive voice cast featuring the likes of Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers), Park’s movie centres around a rather straightforward and overly predictable heroic narrative focusing on Redmayne’s ambitious caveman, Dug, who challenges the rule of Hiddleston’s green-eyed, wealth obsessed and questionably accented Lord Nooth to a game of football in order to claim back their quaint and idyllic homeland of which was stolen in order to mine out its quantity of ore.

Whilst the feature includes a wide range of chuckle-inducing, zippy one-liners, ranging from cute, animated asides to comments about the state of modern-day football, Park’s movie unfortunately never feels expressive or varied enough to warrant its’ big-screen release, with a ninety minute runtime attempting to squeeze as much out as possible of an incredibly basic plot and failing, resulting in a sense of a one-note joke being somewhat stretched to the widest extent possible and creating a staggering pace which begins the terrible feat of time checking curiosity. Thankfully for Park however, the stop-motion animation is flawless and beautiful enough to somewhat paper over the cracks, and with a concluding act which although confines to the plot’s heavy predictability, is impressive in its’ charming demeanour and positive sensibility, resulting in Early Man managing to succeed in being a solid, if overly throwaway, ninety minutes of animated escapism in which will undoubtedly work for kids more than it may work for us picky, somewhat legged, coffee consuming adults.

Overall Score: 6/10

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

“This Is Mr. Scamander, He’s Lost Something, I’m Going To Help Him…”

Being of an age in which the two main film franchises entwined with my youth was Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the knowledge of an extended glance into the land of the former was an interesting premise, albeit a premise which included zero of the franchises’ earlier cast members and a premise which undoubtedly was a huge risk after the success of the earlier movies. Stealing David Yates as director, the man responsible for the last few HP movies, and having J. K. Rowling herself as screenwriter, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, inspired by the book of the same name by Rowling back in 2001, is a completely new view of the Potterverse, one which takes place in 1920’s New York and follows the menacing tribulations of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who, much like the title says, loses a substantial amount of his fantastical beasts en route to Arizona and is then tasked with locating such creatures alongside the “no-maj” baker-to-be Jacob (Dan Fogler) and former Aura, Tina (Katherine Waterston).

Being a solid fan of anything remotely Harry Potter, it comes as a deep disappointment that Fantastic Beasts for me was a resounding mess of a movie, a film which had very little engagement in terms of its characters alongside a strange sense of nonexistence in terms of any sort of narrative which made the film rather tedious at times, particularly during its’ sloggish first hour and the movie’s cop-out conclusion which seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. With the wasting of prestigious talent such as Jon Voight, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell, the movie focuses most of its’ attention on Redmayne in the movies’ lead role, a performance which takes the fundamental kooky nature of Redmayne and ranks it up to eleven, resulting in a character which was actually rather boring to be with. Whilst the film does boast some creative digital effects and a cute loot-obsessed niffler, Fantastic Beasts can only be described as a mildly inconsequential addition to the lore of Harry Potter, a film which begins the cycle of FOUR more movies with a whimper rather than a bang, and a film which really nosedives with the most obvious twist since Inferno, in the addition of Johnny Depp as the real protagonist of the series. Shame really, as Colin Farrell was one of the film’s positives. For every cloud I suppose…

Overall Score: 5/10

88th Academy Awards: Best Actor

Best Actor

Could this finally be the year. Howard Hughes in The Aviator. Sorry, Jamie Foxx deserves that this year. How about Billy Costigan in The Departed? I’m afraid not. But how about my roles in either Django Unchained or The Wolf of Wall Street? Once again, I’m afraid not Leonardo, you just aren’t good enough to deserve an Oscar. Fine. I’ll find a director who will put me through sheer hell and force me to cut open a horse and sleep inside it, proper Luke Skywalker style from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, I’m sure this isn’t how the life of Leonard DiCaprio actually played out after countless times of Oscar betrayal but it does seem that his dedication to his role in The Revenant was that of a man giving all he possibly can in order to claim what has bypassed his clutches in the past. Everyone and their mum’s believes it is time for Leo to win his Oscar and if somehow such did fail to occur this year, I fully believe the Leo supporting masses would violently and swiftly burn the Dolby Theatre down to the ground with Leo being the sole survivor of such a terrible tragedy.

Extreme I know, but without even looking at the betting for this years’ Best Actor category, it is obvious that Leo is the firm favourite. In fact, it is such a safe bet I would recommend putting your life savings on it. Trust me, I know these things. If however you are not privy to the odd bet or two and believe that the Oscars will continue to starve DiCaprio of his glory, the other contenders for the award include Bryan Cranston for Trumbo, Matt Damon for The Martian, Michael Fassbender for the brilliant Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne for the not-so-brilliant The Danish Girl.  As for those who may have been overlooked, Fassbender, if not for Steve Jobs, would have been nominated for his role as Macbeth in Justin Kurzel’s cold-blooded adaptation of the Shakespearean classic, whilst it was a shame Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t recognised for his eye-locking performance in The Hateful Eight, one which kept the film intriguing and captivating for its’ ridiculously over-long runtime. Also, what about Jacob Tremblay’s simply stunning performance in Room? Sure he’s only nine but Tatum O’Neal won an Oscar at the age of ten. One to ponder upon anyhow. Here are the nominations:

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant

Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo

Matt Damon – The Martian

Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
 
Next Time: Best Actress!

Film Review: The Danish Girl

“I Think Lily’s Thoughts, I Dream Her Dreams. She Was Always There…”

Beginning with The King’s Speech and continuing with Les Miserables, director Tom Hooper has now gained the rather envious typecast of being a filmmaker who is infatuated with the award season and the ultimate array of glory and praise that follows it at every turn. Add into the mix last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne, and a story focusing on the tragedy of love, desire and ultimately, human identity, it would be easy to assume that The Danish Girl would be another success story for Hooper at this year’s incoming award season yet the reality is, superb acting aside, Hooper’s latest is unfortunately a rather plodding, shallow and cold adaptation of David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel of the same name which focuses upon the life of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener and the struggle of the former’s attempt at gender reassignment surgery, one of the first recorded persons to have done so back in the mid-1920’s.

It’s hard to examine The Danish Girl as anything other than a rather disappointing experience, with the hype of a emotional, compelling drama led by the brilliance of both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander being completely overshadowed by the lack of distinct emotion within the plot resulting in there neither being a sense of sympathy or empathy for the character of Lili/Einar even when played flawlessly by Eddie Redmayne. It is certainly strange for the pedigree of an actor such as Redmayne to convey a character so well on-screen yet still failing at any attempt to convert similar emotions onto the viewer, showing that perhaps the weak script is the central problem is failing to resonate any true feelings towards the film. Furthermore, the film’s central performance arguably is not from Redmayne himself and instead, is that of Vikander, the ambiguous, titular Danish Girl perhaps, who seems to be the easier of the two to fully embrace and understand resulting in a conflicting battle between a love for the acting and disappointment at the script.

In a roundabout sort of way, The Danish Girl is a fine example of a movie that is solely saved by the pedigree of its’ cast rather than that of it’s script and emotional impact, showing that for all its’ weaknesses, Tom Hooper’s latest will indeed carry on his proud awards success but for it’s acting alone, with The Danish Girl saved from being a forgettable, drab biographical, built only on the reputation of Hooper thanks to both Vikander and Redmayne. Oscar wins? Maybe not, but nominations is a sure thing, evident by their recognition by the Golden Globes, yet if wins were secured by either actor, it would only be remembered as a win for “that film about gender reassignment”, not the legacy I’m sure Hooper intended.

Overall Score: 5/10

Film Review: Jupiter Ascending

The Day My Mind Stood Still

Oh Wachowski siblings. Your once promising career has all but ended thanks to this latest offering to the people of this much loved Earth. Such an unwelcome gift comes in the form of Jupiter Ascending, a film that can only be described as being this decades’ Battlefield Earth, a statement that does not come lightly, whilst being a complete shame when remembering how brilliant The Matrix was when I first watched it. Now, in 2015, instead of The Matrix, we have a film with no soul, no depth, and seemingly not a care in the world, aside from one that has a massive bank note wrapped around it, with its’ lead characters being almost as soul-crushingly dull as the film itself. Rant mode activated.

I would attempt to give a brief synopsis of Jupiter Ascending, but the truth is, I really cannot be bothered. The plot is so ridiculously uninspiring and sleep-inducing that it’s making me yawn even as I think about it now, whilst simultaneously making me cringe so hard, I feel like I am looking at early photos of my dress sense in the 1990’s. So plot done with, what’s next I hear you ask! Characters. Okay. Firstly, I have a fundamental problem with Mila Kunis as a bog cleaner. It just wouldn’t happen. Also, being cursed with a name such as Jupiter Jones, surely she would have legally changed it by now? No sane human being would walk around 21st century society with a name so laughable being called Ben Dover is a step up. Unless that’s the actual underlying point of the film, that she is actually so insane that she dreams of meeting a topless, roller skating, wonky eared, Channing Tatum and flying off to badly CGI’d planets, because whoever pitched the idea of Jupiter Ascending was clearly mad and needs to be heavily sedated and sectioned ASAP.

As for Channing Tatum, his reputation as a “serious actor” has been dealt a crippling blow. Why would he, after doing so well in Foxcatcher, want to be in this turkey of a movie? Surely he must have read the script? The same goes for Sean Bean, who throughout the entirety of his scenes in the film looks as bored as I did watching him, yet acting bored in a movie is better than acting as a humanised wooden plank, a feat which Ms. Kunis passes with flying colours. And now on to Eddie Redmayne. Oh Eddie, Eddie, Eddie. Your Oscar win is not as clear-cut as it might once have been. His portrayal as the villainous I-don’t-care-what-his-name-is is exceedingly laughable and can only be described as the dull second-cousin of  Gary Oldman’s, Zorg, in The Fifth Element. His constant need to quietly whisper instructions to badly designed flying reptile things was bad enough, but when juxtaposed with sudden belts of screaming, it was like watching my 13 year old brother having a hissy-fit after not being allowed on the PlayStation. Sorry Eddie, but you were utter pants.

In conclusion, Jupiter Ascending, is complete tripe. The attempts at acting are terrible. The plot is ludicrous. Okay, it might look good and fancy, but fanciness cannot save Jupiter Ascending from being one of the most boring and pain-inducing sci-fi films I think I have ever sat through. I think it’s time to watch The Matrix again.

Overall Score: 3/10

87th Academy Awards: Best Actor

Oscars 2015: Best Actor

Second on this Oscar blog, is the Best Actor category, which features some brilliant performances, particularly from the two British representatives, Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne (Or benedict XCuebrvatch and Eddie Redmaybe, as the Guardian call them*) portraying the iconic Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking respectively. In terms of bookies favourite, Michael Keaton is top of the list for this years gong, for his portrayal of Riggan Thompson in Birdman. In terms of my own particular choice, it’s hard to shy away from Eddie Redmayne, whose transformative performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything is just a wonder to behold, and after winning the Golden Globe, where for the last three years the winner has gone on to win the Oscar, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him lift the golden guy next month. In the category of “overlooked”, is Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Brendan Gleeson in Calvary, and unbelievably Jake Gyllenhaal, for both Enemy and Nightcrawler. Don’t worry Jake, I thing you’re fab. Anyway, we have:

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Next… Best Actress