“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
“My Name Is Hercule Poirot And I am Probably The Greatest Detective In The World…”
Helmed by the steady of hand of theatre and screen aficionado, Kenneth Branagh, the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express comes eighty three years after the source material was first published and forty three years after the first cinematic venture of such a story, one directed by Sidney Lumet and featured an extensively impressive cast which included the likes of Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and the post-Bond presence of Sean Connery. Returning to the big screen once again with a similarly majestic group of actors, Branagh’s take on arguably Christie’s most iconic story is one which cranks up the absurdity in a manner which takes on board Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Noah, whilst being a film which too enjoys basking in the nostalgia factor of its’ early twentieth century setting, and whilst there is undeniable charm and enjoyment at the heart of Branagh’s project, the real lack of freshness and a wavering narrative hook results in the latest Murder on the Orient Express being just good enough to warrant another punt at the famous source material.
Whilst it seems everyone and their dog is aware of the story at the heart of Christie’s novel, Branagh’s movie utilises Blade Runner 2049 and Logan screenwriter Michael Green’s script to introduce a few minor character differences and narrative swings, of which some directly link back to the Sidney Lumet version of the story and some which are wholly original, with my personal favourite being a karate loving Count Andrenyi who is introduced with a simply baffling scene of him roundhousing a fellow passenger before boarding the titular medium of travel. With the added use of CGI to enhance the titular locomotive’s unplanned halt on the snow-filled tracks and some effectively crafted flashback scenes which both improve on the Lumet version and make things simple for even the most wavering audience mind, Branagh’s first attempt at a big-screen Christie tale passes the time rather harmfully, with the director’s portrayal of Belgium’s most famous export being a charming and suave interpretation, and with an concluding act which sets out a possible future franchise, Murder on the Orient Express is best served with a bourbon biscuit and a nice cup of Earl Grey. Put the kettle on love.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Find Jack Sparrow For Me And Relay A Message From Captain Salazar. Tell Him: Death Will Come Straight For Him…”
Praise be and grab your rum of choice, it is indeed that time once again. After believing that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had sailed its’ last sail with On Stranger Tides, a third sequel to Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s flagship theme park based series swiftly returns this week with Salazar’s Revenge or perhaps, Dead Men Tell No Tales, depending on where exactly you will be spending your hard earned cash in order to witness the newest CGI orgy of famous actors dressing up like second year university students hitting the town and pretending to act serious when shouting “arghhh” and battling invisible, digitally created cannon fodder, all of whom are eager for disposal by death. Holding my frightfully cynical tone for a moment, the release of Salazar’s Revenge might controversially be the film which reinvents my opinion of the gargantuan series, and even with expectations as low as the depths of the pacific ocean, the addition of Norwegian directorial pair Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg alongside the ever reliable presence of Javier Bardem is a cause for cautious optimism, particular with the latter’s ability to carry off a damn fine villain when necessary. Inevitably, Salazar’s Revenge instead is yet just another CGI-fuelled bore-fest, one which trades set pieces for narrative and acting ability for budget costs within a skin peeling two hours which confirms the series has indeed sunk to the depths of mediocrity without any sign of resuscitation aboard.
Whilst the film centrally is based around the retrieval of a mysterious object which breaks every and any curse laced upon the many characters within the Pirates universe, Salazar’s Revenge also has to try and squeeze in the titular character’s quest for violent justice, with Javier Bardem’s CGI-masked villain setting his sights on the figure of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, a Captain Jack Sparrow who has seemingly worsened in every subsequent movie, resulting in a performance which has increasingly become a caricature of itself in an almost cringe-like fashion. With a script which is laced with cheesy and ear-grating dialogue, Depp has finally managed to confirm that his time in the spotlight as the world’s worst pirate must finally come to some sort of a dignified end, and whilst the inclusion of Orlando Bloom and a completely silent Keira Knightley could leave some fans jumping for joy, the return of their respective characters adds absolutely nothing to the overall enjoyment of the movie. Alongside some terrible sound editing and a complete lack of threat, Salazar’s Revenge is unsurprisingly a meaningless, dull affair, one which continues the woeful track record of blockbusters this year and a film which rivals David Beckham for worst cameo of the year so far. I mean, Paul McCartney, what are you thinking?
Overall Score: 3/10
Another Disney movie with Johnny Depp in. Again, playing the weirdest character possible. For me, it’s lost it’s charm and really reflects Disney’s desire to ride off of the success of Jack Sparrow in alternate realities. Within recent weeks, The Lone Ranger has suffered largely from a flop in America and critics bashing it left, right and centre. It’s $220 million budget was one of the big problems that Disney has had on this project and it’s expected that it may not see an actual return on the investment. With thee American results over a month ago, it is extremely unlikely that it will achieve over $190 million from the worldwide box office. Personally, I wasn’t aware that The Lone Ranger was a radio show, TV show and loads more avenues. I thought it was a kids books from back in the day. Not experiencing the avenues, I don’t know much about The Lone Ranger and Tonto but this movie focuses on the beginning of the pair which could mean it is an origins story with the potential for more. However, due to the sales, this is very unlikely even though Gore Verbinski directed it and is renowned for his Pirates of The Caribbean trilogy (Not the Black Beard one!)
Instead of just jumping into the story, we join the world in the 1920’s (Bit of a stab in the dark!) A young boy dressed in Lone Ranger attire wanders through a Wild West carnival exhibit and stumbles across a Native Indian statue which turns out to be real. Soon we find out it’s Tonto (Johnny Depp) whose grown old. From this point, he beings to reactant the story of how he and the Lone Ranger met and the story that formed the bond between them, only to be interrupted a few times in the midst of the story to clear up things that Tonto left out (presumably because of age), this could have been used to aid the plot but it felt intrusive and stopped the motion of play at certain points but really aided the ending with the explosion of a bridge by deviating before it blew and returning about 20 minutes later to finally watch it go up in flames. The overall story was one that was very simple and could have ended at multiple points. Skipping through the usual ‘How our heroes came to be’ we know that Tonto is a nutter and John Reid – The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) is a city lawyer broken apart by the death of his Texas Ranger brother. Seeking justice, the pair ride together to find Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner), an infamous posse leader who is known for eating the organs of his fallen foes, right in front of their corpse. With a mix of plot twists and turns, the story doesn’t grind to a halt but it could easily have ended much sooner rather than being dragged along for a 2 1/2 hour journey.
A big budget, a collection of famous names and faces with a talented director and Disney’s backing, you can see that a lot of work and dedication has gone into the movie. As a group, the writers have worked together to create something both adult and child friendly while reflecting the complexity of the situation that was happening at the time with the conflicts between Americans and the Natives over control of the land and its natural resources. Alongside the cinematography the overall filming was stunning and the cunning use of the props was an intriguing and clever idea. The prop use that sticks out to me was when Tonto was looting the bodies of the dead rangers and was doing a traditional Indian trade when he gave him a packet of nuts that was given to him by the young child he is telling the story too. Lighting was heavily considered for certain areas. The most prominent area was the silver mine which has the brightest lighting combined with the natural light of the area, the whole area glistened white. The shots ranged from extreme close-ups to long shots that captured the landscape brilliantly and transitioned between areas extremely well. The general construction of both the settings and the costumes should be applauded as they were well manufactured and fit the area perfectly.
Out of the whole cast, the best acted character was Butch Cavendish. One – his make-up was impeccable and I didn’t know it was him until I looked at the IMDB list. Two – Fichtner managed to keep in character without losing character by over exaggerating. Once again, the typical duo of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are gracing the screens together. Nothing new and exciting there but Helena only appears 2-3 times and doesn’t really do much to warrant the huge pay check that she received, especially with the accent that didn’t sound very ‘western’. As usual, Depp plays a weird character that is placed out of the regular confines of modern society in a changing world. He plays the crazy characters fine, the feeding of the dead bird was entertaining and his blank stares were much the same but it’s nothing that we haven’t already seen and I would really like to see him in something a little more serious, perhaps Rum Diaries. Finally, we have the main hero John Reid. Arnie Hammer doesn’t appear to have done a huge amount and I would hazard a guess that this is his first leading role so far and it wasn’t bad. He was a little weird and points and spent most of the time being a bit of a liability with very little character development apart from his brothers death and his brothers wife who he loves…One of my problems is with the casting of Reid’s nephew, why can they not cast a child who can act a little?
In typical Verbinski style, this movie is just an action movie. It is also filled with comedy and crazy shenanigans which made the Pirates series so popular. A personal favourite was the rabbits. Not just ordinary rabbits, savage mother fuckers who will quite happily feed on their dead cooked cousin while snarling at the screen bearing its teeth, bundling in with a brawl between seemingly normal animals. The rest of the comedy was the over zealous explosions, fight scenes with witty one liners, The spirit horse that appears from nowhere and the heroic duo who spend moments arguing like a married couple in Asda’s drink section (Walmart to the Americans), Alongside that you have Tonto’s weird behaviour coupled with that bloody crow can be funny.
So overall, the movie is fun. Not a masterpiece of cinema, or a brilliantly scripted piece that grabs you by the balls and pulls you into the dark room. There was no tension builders that could have assisted the story but in total I feel it is worth the watch, seeing as we won’t be seeing a follow-up to it. 6/10 feels right to me. 7/10 on a good day.