Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

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Lumos! The second part of the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series has arrived but does the sequel light up the Wizarding World or is it a Boggart best left in the cupboard?

After the events in New York, magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is forbidden to travel out of the UK. Upon finding out both Credence (Ezra Miller) and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) are in Paris, the kindly Hufflepuff must try to get to France. However, the dark wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped from lock-up and is calling on magic folk to take a stand against the powers that tell them they should hide their true selves from Muggles.

So, the biggest problem that lies within J.K. Rowling’s second screenplay is the muddled mess of differing narratives. The first film may not have been outstanding but it carried a simple enough premise with a third act that became a lumbering CGI mess, yet on the whole it was good to follow. However, this movie seems so preoccupied with the setting up of another three films to come, that it never has a breath to focus on a story or character and they eventually become confused and tiresome to keep up with.

Another issue with ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ is how distinctly lacking of magical charm it is. The wonderful thing about the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise; however fuelled by nostalgia they may be, is that they possessed a great level of delight and engaging dazzle. It has only been two films and already this part of the Wizarding World has lost its spark, with a story empty of wonder and severely low on coherent adventure for the family to enjoy.

In the grand scheme of things and considering we’re laboured with another trio of Scamander led movies, there may be a great plan concocted by the author of the Potter books but at the moment it feels like it’s a series stuffing way too many Augrey eggs in its basket. There are a couple of entertaining moments and a few of the creatures are well designed, as are the brilliant costumes from previous Oscar winner Colleen Atwood but aside from some solid production, the movie doesn’t seem to know what it is and good luck if the audience is meant to either.

Eddie Redmayne is coasting on auto-pilot as the nearly annoyingly prim and goody two shoes Newt. Katherine Waterston and Ezra Miller get little time to make an impact amongst the zig-zagging of plot-lines. Alison Sudol gets to explore Queenie a touch more which is nice and the newcomer presence of Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore is fine enough, he’s got the charisma necessary but feels like he’s rooted at exposition checkpoints for the story. Johnny Depp has the snarl but still should have been recast and now, for worse we’re stuck with him.

There are some flashy visuals and it isn’t terrible but it feels dead behind the eyes. You can’t repel the feeling that this has already become a cheap and hollow shiny cash-grab that the greediest Niffler would love to pocket.

5.5/10

 

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Halloween (2018)

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October is rocketing into the latter half and soon All Hallows Eve will come around so what better mood setter than this film. There’s been a lot of expectation riding on this since its announcement back in 2016; the first is a personal favourite and the many sequels failed to capture the same magic. So, with Blumhouse taking over the reins and John Carpenter on board as creative consultant could this film restore hopes in the franchise?

Forty years after the Haddonfield murders, Michael Myers is visited in his sanitarium abode before he’s transferred to a more secure prison but on the way the bus crashes and Myers escapes hoping to track down the survivor of his spree, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).

The fact that this film ignores everything that came after the 1978 movie is great, it keeps the story tighter and really hones in on the cat and mouse set-up of Laurie and Michael. Any fear that ‘Halloween’ would be awful are lost sharply; the opening scene is foreboding and sets the scene well and as soon as the revamped score blasts out and orange credits open on the screen, goosebumps prickle over the skin and a welcome smile covers the face as if a long lost friend is coming home.

David Gordon Green may not have a strong calibre of films in his back pocket but with Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride, he’s crafted a neat modern spin on the icon of slasher horror. The new stylistic choices never overshadow the simple but effective story of boy wants girl and vice versa and along the way there are fun, knowing winks to moments from the original. Green ensures that the most important factor remains after retconning the other sequels and that’s delightful thrills.

The Shape is as dominant as ever, this unstoppable force with just his trusty knife and mask still has a predilection for Halloween playfulness and this is darkly amusing to see. Michael is a powerful entity of evil, a version of us if we were to have every emotion drained from our being. He certainly lights up, or perhaps darkens the screen with the same spine-tingling sense of dread as his mission for Laurie escalates. No more can this be seen than in a superb but short-lived unedited trick or treat sequence in the suburbs where the camera follows Myers roaming along the sidewalk and through homes getting back into the murderous swing of things.

In a way, what’s more effective than The Boogeyman’s rampage is this movie casting a well focused eye on trauma and the prolonged aftermath it can rustle up for someone. This paranoia and constant living fear are explored really well and come to a head within Strode’s fortress in the woods. The house is a fantastic metaphor for her fearful nature concerning the ordeal 40 years prior but it doubles up as a nifty home of tricks mirroring her internal pulse to not let the past defeat her and take a further hold over her family.

Brilliant horror stereotypes rear their head, from stoner boyfriends to promiscuous babysitters who engage in premarital sex and each part are played appropriately. Andi Matichak is pleasing as Laurie’s granddaughter, a character framed as the kind, innocent pure final girl to follow in her grans footsteps. Laurie Strode is the ultimate bad ass scream queen and Jamie Lee Curtis is the ultimate, nobody can capture this scared yet brave duality like she does throughout the movie.

‘Halloween’ knows it’s a spooky romp and has great fun with the antics of building characters and their possible slaughters. It might be a simple sequel but a feeling of pin-point classic horror brilliance showers the entire film.

8.5/10

The Predator (2018)

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A lot of talk has been going on as of late with ‘The Predator’ and most of it isn’t about the movie itself, so with these dramatic revelations does Shane Black’s recent feature manage to pull through or is it not worth the time?

After a Predator ship crashes to Earth, sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) makes first contact but is soon captured and dispatched to a rag-tag of veterans by Will Trager (Sterling K. Brown). As these lethal aliens come after their armour; McKenna, the vets and evolutionary expert Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) team up to hunt the hunters.

I must admit that I have never seen any other film from the ‘Predator’ franchise so maybe that aided my amusement to watching this one. There is a great bundle of fun to be had though, if you can ignore some awful Rasta-dogs, plenty of guts, expletives and explosions fill the screen with such giddy abandon that makes this a sci-fi horror like the saga is known for but a crimson soaked comic thriller instead.

This almost non-stop action and comedy comes right out of the Shane Black book of movie-making. Sure, it isn’t set during Christmas but Black writes in plenty of witty dialogue that chips in and out of the impending danger. McKenna doesn’t just have one other person to riff with like other Black screenplays, i.e ‘The Nice Guys’ or ‘Lethal Weapon’, he has a whole bus full of characters to make this movie burst to the seams with laddish humour.

Comedy and ripped intestines don’t prevent the third act from feeling like a sore spot. The film descends into being overly ridiculous and more than a couple of times you can see really shameful uses of CGI. A sequence that is all about a blood sport of hunt and kill should have been way more exciting than it was. A big reason as to why this section doesn’t work comes down to the frantic editing and characters that just disappear or are culled which you can’t quite keep up with.

Aside from this weak final twenty minutes, the movie is a dumb joy to behold and a large feature of that joy boils down to the acting in the brotherhood which manifests between McKenna and a squad of men with extreme characteristics. Holbrook keeps up a near-constant grimace and aggression and Keegan-Michael Key is a big player in padding the film with plenty of laughter.

‘The Predator’ doesn’t really connect to the vets but there is enough wise-cracking involved that we know to root for them whereas on the flip side of the coin, which lands in Sterling K. Brown’s proficient palm, we face a charming yet despicable foe who chews up the scenery with Nicorette gum and pure craft. Olivia Munn, controversy aside, is great in softening the blows of constant larking about. She’s no boring damsel in distress biologist, she has enough smarts and skill to keep her cool around Predators and a team of men dripping in testosterone. Jacob Tremblay is a force of munchkin talent to be reckoned as per usual, his ‘superpower’ of autism may get heavy handed but he’s never irritating which other child actors can easily be.

Some may have issues with the plot development and yes the last stages aren’t so strong but watching antics of a newly formed squadron versus a beastly statuesque creature with dreads is an entertaining ride.

7/10

Scary Movie 5 (2013)

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My ears hurt and my eyes are bleeding. This truly is a scary movie to watch unfold, with jokes that are scarily bad and performances that go past exaggerated silliness to downright painful.

Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and her husband Dan (Simon Rex) go to collect the children of Charlie Sheen after he died. As Dan is their uncle, they are allowed to keep them but back at their ‘Paranormal Activity’ CCTV laden home, an entity known as Mama begins wreaking nonsense and through spoofing of ‘Black Swan’; Jody wins a new friend to try and help get to a wooded cabin and put a stop the evils of the spirit.

The ‘Scary Movie’ franchise was never a golden series anyway, but I did enjoy the first two for the sheer bonkers yet smart angle of ripping apart tropes from the horror genre. It’s no surprise this fifth instalment was the weakest box office performer and it’s likely killed the saga plus the tiresome parody genre that was spilling over into lunacy about 10 years ago. The fact that original players like Anna Faris and Regina Hall aren’t on board either doesn’t do this film any favours.

David Zucker and Pat Proft throw in ‘jokes’ from punching children, partying hoovers, masturbation gags and a baby on fire with many other misfiring attempts at humour in between. The entire run of this film is an ordeal to get through and it made me sigh in exasperation many many times. The fact that even the bloopers in the credits aren’t funny shows how much this movie hurts your brain.

The first two films of the franchise managed to keep their sights on just a couple of movies to spoof, whereas this one terribly riffs on multiple films whether they’re in the horror realm or not. I didn’t laugh once, a chuckle was a feeling I almost forgot could exist, as this groan inducing nightmare kept on forcing out dud joke after slapstick after toilet humour after dud joke.

An outtake with Tisdale getting flustered with her lines and saying there’s “so many penises” followed by an off screen voice retorting “welcome to Hollywood” showcases the amount of juvenile genital based stabs at comedy, moreover this small exchange is more skin-crawling thanks to the weight of Weinstein producing this movie and what we know of the man. That was the scariest part of the entire feature.

I honestly don’t get this film and how people would have possibly enjoyed it in cinemas, it’s like watching a tired zombie trawl through lame pop cultural gags and wildly unfunny horror parodies.

1/10

Death Wish (2018)

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Adding no fresh or riveting spin on the ‘vengeful justice’ wing of the thriller genre, Eli Roth’s newest addition in the ‘Death Wish’ franchise is led by a capable Willis but has many serious problems.

Surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is celebrating a birthday and his wife and daughters’ individual successes but that’s short-lived, as one night whilst he’s at hospital working, Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and Jordan (Camila Morrone) are gunned down in a house robbery gone wrong. As Jordan lies in a coma, Paul begins opening his eyes to the world of violence and decides to try and stop it if he can.

I had major issues with this film and it infuriated me the more it kept on going, but I must say that there’s suitable, palpable tension in the book-ended home invasion scenes and tiny moments in the first thirty minutes are entertaining to a point, but this needlessly stitched on sixth addition to the series is loaded with on the nose dialogue stinking of cult movie dreams and less than gritty blood dripped revenge.

Arriving in cinemas at the worst timing possible after the Parkland shootings, severely puts an off taste in the mouth watching this show-boating gun parade, but at any time this would be a film that would wind me up because it seems happy to display Paul Kersey like a necessary angel of death; the slow motion and hip hop backing painting him like a hero because he’s discovered the world of rifles, glocks etc. The film has this whole treatment of gun shops, ammo and hidden weaponry like it’s a joke and not even the poorly acted radio talk show discussions can save the movie. Their chats of Kersey either being good or bad don’t redeem the glorified manner in which he and guns are portrayed.

It just got more irritating as it went on, that I was following someone clearly designed as the hero of the story, yet on multiple occasions he could have notified the police when finding out information. This would have saved his bullet spraying quest and prevented him from becoming a murderer. I lost sympathy in the character and by the end of the film where he ends up facing absolutely no punishment for his crimes I was glad to see the credits finally show up. Just him being horrendously injured, imprisoned or killed would have gifted the film a message that gun wielding vigilantism isn’t a smart choice.

Willis starts in a capacity different to what he’s done of late, showing some emotion to the loss of his wife but he ends up becoming the same ol’ bold bald unsinkable force. The usually fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio is a boring sidelined character here and I have zero clue why he signed on for this release.

This is a baffling movie arriving at a time of major gun violence problems in America and just generally, it suffers massively by trying to get its audience rooting for someone who treads down the same road of using gun violence.

3.5/10

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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The saga returns and the 2nd of the new Star Wars trilogy whams into the cinema with director Rian Johnson ensuring he gives fans a lot to be pleased about whilst gifting the starry sci-fi blockbuster some neat stylish additions of his own.

Continuing on from Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) island meet up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), she hopes to learn the ways of the Jedi. Meanwhile Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is desperately trying to evacuate the Rebel base as the First Order try and diminish hope from the galaxy and wipe out the chance of Luke’s return. As they keep trying to escape, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is at odds with his place in all this, not helped by visions that unwillingly connect him to someone else.

Rian Johnson ensures the Star Wars aficionados can enjoy seeing certain characters, screen wipes and the charm of space opera good versus bad as the ever central theme. Hope and the notion of crushing that ideal is what drives the franchise and this is no exception but gladly the director after J.J. Abrams hands this outing some stylistic moments; ones that almost step out of the comfortable SW bubble, that I thoroughly enjoyed. These choices keep the film fresh and help it look exciting but more brooding than ‘The Force Awakens’. A sequence with endlessly mirroring a character, the salted planet of red surface and crystal critters and an extremely amazing breathtaking snappy edit of a soundless explosion are some examples of the visual splendour Johnson and his huge crew have created, which keep the galaxy alive with big screen wonder.

There are some points, mostly that lay within the story, that can feel utterly safe and predictable. Obviously I’m not wanting to spoil anything in this review so I’ll keep hush on the negatives I had but sufficed to say there are space filled deus ex machinas abounds and little character events that I expected straight away which sort of took me out of the immersive thrill. Also, some writing choices they give the action and/or characters felt cheap or not wholly unnecessary and without spoilers I really felt no need for a kiss that comes at one time.

Luke’s island hideout is rife with creatures and one species is the well advertised and product placed Porgs that clearly strike for the kids and the cute factor. Granted they can be quite fun but the clear merchandise cash in that they are and their constant gaping mouth wide eyed shtick becomes less amusing and ever tiring. Aside from a couple of story gripes and these puffin-esque beasties this movie has a good amount of twists and turns that keep the narrative interesting, a mission on a casino centred Canto Bight is rich with wealth, class differences and a couple of fun cameos. Another positive is John Williams returning with a score that’s safe but swells and simmers with the fan buzz of familiar sounds to satisfy all. I also love that a lot of the creatures you see are handled with animatronics which look much better and charming than the sheen of CGI.

Mark Hamill gets his teeth into much more screen time and it’s nice to see Luke Skywalker back, though he’s getting to play well with the bitter side of things. Hamill delivers enough emotion into his journey of who he is now and why he’s left the Jedi Master qualities behind with a tinge of will he/won’t he be a bad egg. Both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher lift the film with an explainable grace that probably stems from the nostalgia of their presence amongst the whirlwind of desperate escape tactics. Fisher herself still carries Leia as a beacon of hope and strength, she’s good and efficient and Fisher performs this effortlessly filling the General shoes with ease. Adam Driver gets to slowly break away from his angsty teen fits and dramatics and the conflict in his path is nicely evident in the performance. Daisy Ridley manages to keep up the brave and strong qualities of Rey, a hero through and through but one where Ridley nicely plays with the pressure of balancing her place in the Force and the pull of the dark side. Domhnall Gleeson amps up the villainous panto switch with sneers aplenty. Supreme Leader Snoke gets more screen time and has more depth and a constant creepy shadowy presence thanks to the mo-cap work from Andy Serkis.

It’s definitely a long film and this is a long review to almost reflect that. It’s the longest one yet but luckily it never feels a slog; it may not zip on by but it’s a well handled and well paced space adventure that feels like a grand step up from Episode 7 and one that has humour and stakes around every corner.

8/10

Jason Bourne (2016)

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After rightfully dropping ‘The Bourne Legacy’ from my memory; I was anxious but well up for another Bourne outing once realising that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass would be united once again. This film then, is a slight drop in the honed in grittiness of the trilogy, but it’s still a damn well delivered action thriller.

Kicking off after Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) swimming away from Ultimatum, we find the troubled man in Greece trying to live off the grid. That is until a face from the past warns him of more secrets leading Bourne to hunt down answers pursued by the tactics of CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Admittedly I must say that even my excitement never wavered upon finding out this movie was in production, I did feel that maybe it wasn’t overly needed. I can confirm that now seeing this I still annoyingly feel that it wasn’t truly necessary. There’s an engaging story in there at times amongst the CIA charged drama but having Bourne finding out there’s more to his past feels quite rehashed.

That’s the only negative I majorly have with this movie though, the story is kind of the same and the convenience of having a third act sequence at a tech convention, for Bourne to just scoop some handy tools for tracking felt lazy, but apart from these sour notes I found myself really enjoying this spy feature. It has both action and technical logistics scenes in equal measure that make it more than just explosions and nonsense, the new faces are a treat to the JB world and you can’t hide the smile when the first shrill notes of Moby’s ‘Extreme Ways’ exits the speakers.

Greengrass is great in making these blockbuster movies feel dangerous and real. The grittiness is in effect and the frequent shaky cam gives an unstable edge to the look which works well in parallel to the quivering nature of truth and who to trust in the plot. Greengrass certainly knows how traverse the globe, shooting cities and their subsequent panics to make Bourne a capable hero against all the odds, thrown amongst riots, assassins and shady government figures; he is a man to root for.

Each big moment feels well handled and packs a suitable punch, mostly for being so damn tense. Firstly there’s Greece and a politically charged breakdown between civilians and police, London gets screen-time in a way not as good as the Waterloo station from Ultimatum but still stuffed with suspense as Bourne tries getting to someone. The gloss and glamour of Las Vegas gets to shine…and smash in a huge way for the final act and it may be Fast and Furious style carnage but it’s breakneck, unflinching and full of adrenaline from start to finish.

Matt Damon is back as Bourne and it’s nice to see him back, he is damn good at the part. Fit and silently firm Damon ensures that Jason is someone we keep on side with, but then it’s the other players in the game that add real spice to the proceedings. Julia Stiles returns and is great in a smaller role. Alicia Vikander keeps you guessing as she treads back and forth in your mind to if she’s good or not and she plays it well. Tommy Lee Jones is a fantastic addition as the stern man overseeing the plan to take down Bourne. Vincent Cassel is another welcome new member and gifts the film a strong asset that can rival the power of Jason himself.

Treadstone and 2002 Bourne may be gone but the Greengrass/Damon combo usher in Ironhand and a still resourceful Jason, to cast an iron hand on the franchise with plenty of solid moments.

7.5/10