Movie review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to one of the most painful reviews I’ve ever written. This is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

IMDb summary: The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

Writing

J.K.Rowling wrote the screenplay for the second film: she started this prequel franchise and it doesn’t look like she will let anybody else play in her sandbox. And I really wish she would, because Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was really poorly written.

To begin with, why was this movie called Fantastic Beasts? All of the beasts that were included in the story were completely irrelevant and unnecessary: they were just stuffed into the narrative to justify the title. And the filmmakers know how unnecessary the beasts were: the logo of the film out ‘Fantastic Beasts’ in tiny letters in the corner and gigantic ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ in the center. They should have just dropped the first part and have every movie named differently.

Sadly, that wasn’t the beasts were not the only problem with the script. The whole script was one giant problem. The film had way too many plotlines: it tried to continue the plotlines set up by the first film, introduced new storylines, and tried to explain HP lore from years ago. And it just basically failed at everything. The whole narrative felt confused because the storylines did not have much to do with one another or the connections felt forced. A lot of the plotlines by themselves were boring or inconsistent. I did mostly enjoy the hero(s) plotlines but found the villain’s one to be very weak: preachy but not persuasive (the only part of the villain’s arc I enjoyed was the attempt to connect wizarding world to real-life history in his final speech). I also think that the movie had too many characters, all fighting for spotlight rather than sharing the movie like an ensemble should. The twists also did not make much sense but were just meant to shock. The references or the explanations of HP role also had no real place in the story and were just cheap fan service. A fanservice for only hardcore fans, because as a casual fan, I could either not get it. Or those references/explanations were new inventions by J.K.Rowling that she just tried to fit in there. Basically, if the first one felt like it was a return to the beloved world of magic, this one was the death of it. This movie marks the first time that I don’t agree with the canon: honestly, fanfiction and fan theories make more sense.

Directing

David Yates, the director of the first film and 4 last HP films, directed The Crimes of Grindelwald and did a decent job. The movie looked gooded visually and did look like an HP movie (not in the third act: it turned into Hobbit for the final battle). The pacing was not the best: the film felt slow and long but that was mostly because the story was unengaging and confusing.

Acting

The movie had a gigantic cast. Eddie Redmayne was a stand-out: charismatic, loveable, and unique. Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler were also really good: as the more obvious hero of the story and the comedic relief/audience stand-in, respectively. Alison Sudol was also good even though the script made some weird choices with her character. Ezra Miller didn’t have that much to do despite his character being so integral to the plot. Zoë Kravitz impact. Callum Turner and Claudia Kim were fine too: they didn’t have anything to do with the story, but, hopefully, something is awaiting her characters in the future. Johnny Depp was fine but I have stopped caring about his performances at this point. Jude Law was a very promising Dumbledore, but, again, he should have been in the film more!

In short, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was not a great film. It looked pretty but lacked where it counted: in the story department.

Rate: 2.7/5

Trailer: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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5 ideas about a movie: Assassination Nation

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of the film that left me flabbergasted. This is Assassination Nation.

IMDb summary: After a malicious data hack exposes the secrets of the perpetually American town of Salem, chaos descends and four girls must fight to survive while coping with the hack themselves.

  1. Assassination Nation was written and directed by Sam Levinson as only his second feature film that he has directed and the third one that he has written. It was basically a feminist manifesto wrapped up in a Purge movie. Let’s unpack that:
  2. Assassination Nation featured some quite heavy-handed social commentary. It openly expressed the fact that women should not be silenced by society and that they should fight back. The message was realized within such a radical and extreme and hypocritical plot-line that it was a bit hard to take it seriously. And yet, with everything that is going around in today’s world and the current cultural/political climate, maybe the world of the movie wasn’t that hard to believe. Which makes the whole ordeal even scarier. And maybe then the message of the film should not be subtle either but direct as it was here.
  3. Assassination Nation was also a genre movie: a gory horror picture that both drew the viewers’ attention to the fact that cinema has helped to desensitize violence by simultaneously partaking in such desensitization of violence itself. And I don’t know whether that genre-outside helped the movie to strengthen its message or whether it just distracted from it.
  4. The four main characters were played by Odessa YoungSuki WaterhouseHari Nef, and Abra. I loved how the film had some diversity within this core 4, both in terms of race and gender identification, but how it also didn’t draw too much attention to it but rather presented it as a given fact, a reality that ought to be normalized. Bella ThorneBill Skarsgård (It), and Joel McHale also had supporting roles in the film.
  5. At first glance, Assassination Nation seemed like quite a unique picture to me. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is actually following in the footsteps of such films as Heathers and, more recently, Thoroughbreds. That is not to say that Assassination Nation wasn’t unique or great in its own right.

In short, Assassination Nation as either confused cringe fest or a brilliant masterpiece. I’m not sure I’ll ever know which one.

Rate: ?/5 (my confusion is refusing to give a number this time)

Trailer: Assassination Nation trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Grinch

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to another Christmas movie review that’s coming out way too early. This is The Grinch!

IMDb summary: A grumpy Grinch plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville.

  1. The Grinch was written by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow. I don’t really have strong feelings about the film’s script: I think it was adequate but didn’t really add anything to the material. The message of belonging and family was a cute one but wasn’t really executed in a way that would make it powerful. What I’m saying is that basically, The Grinch lacked an emotional impact. What I liked best about the writing were the bits of rhymed narration: I thought that they added authenticity to the movie.
  2. Dr. Seuss’ books are absolute children favorites. The 2000 live-action Grinch is a family classic and a Christmas-staple: I clearly remember watching it every year on TV. Thus, since I have fairly fond memories of the last cinematic adaption of this story, maybe that’s why this one seemed unnecessary and average at best.
  3. The Grinch was directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney (two filmmakers that haven’t had that much practice as directors). The animation was absolutely stunning and extremely detailed: one could literally see every individual hair on Grinch’s body. The slapstick humor of the film was a win with the kids at my screen too.
  4. Benedict Cumberbatch voiced the Grinch and was really good. At first, I couldn’t really tell that it was him but after a while, you could distinguish his voice. I don’t know if he bested Jim Carrey’s performance, though. Supporting cast featured the voices of Cameron Seely and Rashida Jones. Pharrell Williams was the narrator.
  5. Before The Grinch, a short Minions film was screened, as both properties belong to the animation money maker that is Illumination entertainment. I don’t really have much to say about the short film (I’m not really a fan of the Minions), but I appreciated the fact that it was actually short (I’m looking at you, Frozen shorts).

In short, The Grinch is a good but, ultimately, unnecessary retelling of well-known Christmas legend.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: The Grinch trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: First Man

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a potential Oscar contender! This is First Man.

IMDb summary: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

  1. First Man was written by Josh Singer (writer of two Oscar winners/contenders The Post and Spotlight), based on a biography by James R. Hansen. The narrative spanned quite a long period of time and had a lot of time jumps (other movies could be made to fill in the gaps – that’s how rich this story is). And yet, even with all the jumping, the plot was still clear and cohesive. The film was also truly an Amstrong biopic because 1) it showcased both his personal life and professional career and 2) it didn’t paint Buzz Aldrin in any favorable light.
  2. First Man was directed by Damien Chazelle of Whiplash and La La Land. Going in to see this film, I wondered whether Chazelle will be able to make a quality non-music related film. And I think he showcased that he is, in fact, very much able to craft a film around any subject with First Man. Even though I knew the ending of the story, I was highly interested and emotionally invested in the progression of the said story. The pacing was also good for the most part – I just wish the film was a tad bit shorter.
  3. Visually, First Man was stunning. The intimate close-ups, especially of the eyes, were very effective. The shaky camera and the constantly mobile frame also made the viewer feel like they were in the cockpit with the astronauts. It’s not a pleasant viewing experience but it served a purpose.
  4. Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) played the lead in the film and did a great job. I smell another Oscar nomination for him but I don’t know if he’s necessarily worthy of a win. Maybe the Academy will decide that it is his time after all. Nevertheless, his performance was incredibly compelling in a subtle and subdued manner.
  5. The supporting cast of First Man consisted of The Crown’s Claire Foy, who has been popping on the big screen more and more (in Breathe and Unsane and soon in The Girl in a Spider’s Web), Jason Clarke (Terminator 5, Everest), Kyle Chandler (Manchester by the Sea, Game Night), and Corey Stoll (Ant-Man).

In short, First Man is a bit long but a compelling film from a director who still has a long career ahead of him. It’s 3/3 for Chazelle.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: First Man trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Hate U Give

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of one of the most important YA/teen films you have ever seen: The Hate U Give!

IMDb summary: Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

  1. The Hate U Give is a cinematic adaptation of a bestselling book of the same name by Angie Thomas. The adapted screenplay was written by Audrey Wells, who, sadly, passed away days before the film’s release. I’ve read the book prior to seeing the film and really loved it. Thus, my expectations were quite high for the film and I’m glad to say the movie has met them.
  2. The importance of The Hate U Give’s story comes from the fact that it feels realistic and real. It doesn’t shy away from the hurtful truth but exposes it in a complex manner. The interplay of topics – friendship, family, community, identity, the system, brutality, violence, race – are all spotlighted and work to create a full picture of the situation. I also wouldn’t exaggerate by saying that this movie isn’t about human rights but rather about life and death.
  3. In addition to being such an important portrayal of a serious worldly issue, The Hate U Give also tries to be a teen movie. That’s where it falters a bit: I felt that the references at the beginning were a bit heavy-handed. I also wasn’t sure about the hopeful ending of the film and yet, I understood the need for it both as an inspirational note to end on and as a marketing ploy (happy endings sell better).
  4. The Hate U Give was directed by George Tillman Jr. and he did a great job with the lacing of the film, though a runtime was a bit long. The director also succeeded in the emotional core of the film: the scenes of the shootings and the riots were as effective as the authentic video of such real-life events, captured with phone cameras.
  5. The Hate U Give’s cast consisted of Amandla Stenberg in the lead (she was absolutely fantastic and hopefully will now be known for this role rather than as Rue from The Hunger Games); Regina Hall (Girls Trip), Russell Hornsby, and Common (I loved the fact that the parents and the uncle also had a function in the story rather than being sidelined); Riverdale’s KJ Apa who grew on me throughout the duration of the film, and Marvel’s Anthony Mackie (was surprised by his appearance in this picture).

In short, The Hate U Give is an angering but necessary watch. Highly recommend!

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: The Hate U Give trailer

Movie review: The Nutcracker and Four Realms

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a first Christmas movie of the 2018 holiday season. If the whole season will be as rocky as its start, then we can just cancel Christmas. This is a quite negative (as you have probably already guessed) review of The Nutcracker and Four Realms.

IMDb summary: A young girl is transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.

Writing

The Nutcracker and Four Realms – a mouthful of a title, huh – was written by Ashleigh Powell. It’s a remake/reimagining of a classic fairytale and a famous ballet. Disney has been making quite a few live-action fairytales. Some of them crashed, like Alice in Wonderland and its sequel. Some blossomed like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. The Nutcracker seems like it will be joining the first group. I feel like there is a general fatigue of live action fairytales and only the really special ones turn into something. The Nutcracker, being a niche and holiday-specific fairytale, is already a hard sell. The fact that it’s premiering so early in November also almost guarantees that it will have a small opening. Maybe it will play for a long time?

Anyways, speaking of the writing: it wasn’t bad but wasn’t original in any way, shape or form. The message on how to deal with grief was a neat one and the young woman’s journey into self-confidence was also a nice thing to spotlight. The actual adventure was sooo by the numbers. The twist could be seen from miles away. The characters were also just meh. The nutcracker especially was so unexceptional despite being the titular character. The dialogue was very simplistic. It just seemed that this whole film was aimed at a very young audience. And by young, I mean babies.

Directing

The Nutcracker was directed by Lasse Hallström (of The Hundred-Foot Journey and A Dog’s Purpose) and Joe Johnston (of Captain America: The First Avenger) – what a weird duo of directors. And even a weirder end product. They did a good job with the visuals – I cannot fault the film’s production value. The CGI could have been cleaner. The pacing was way off. At least the runtime was fairly decent. To end on a positive note: the ballet scenes and the ballet-inspired credits were nice touches. The score, which included the classic melodies, was good too.

Acting

The Nutcracker’s cast’s performances were a huge letdown. Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight were both wooden. Hellen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were folding in their performances and were still the best just because they are true pros and can outact everyone in their sleep. Keira Knightley was killing her career with every minute of being on screen. She was both a cartoon and a parody: everything about her performance – from the look to the speech to the behavior – were just so cringe-y. Her work her kinda reminded me of Anne Hathaway in Alice in Wonderland (another unfortunate comparison between the two less than good Disney fairytales).

The actor who played the father – Matthew Macfadyen –  looked like off-brand Armie Hammer. The British comedian Jack Whitehall also had a cameo role – good on him for finally getting into a Disney movie (even if bad one) after being cut from Frozen.

In short, The Nutcracker and Four Realms was a boring film that won’t bring anyone any Christmas joy. A basic narrative, oversaturated visuals, and some cringe-y acting – that’s this picture in one sentence.

Rate: 2.4/5

Trailer: The Nutcracker and Four Realms trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Halloween!

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a horror film by a horror-hater. This is Halloween!

IMDb summary: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago

  1. Me being a horror-hater, I have never actually seen of the previous numerous Halloween films. Thus, I went into this one knowing the premise and having decent expectations because of all the great reviews. And the expectations were met, in that Halloween was a food film. I’m not sure it was an effective horror film, though.
  2. This may just be a personal thing, but the things that terrify me the most are jump scars and psychological horror. Halloween didn’t have a lot of either of those things. It did look at psychological issues (Mindhunter-like) but didn’t really use them for scarces. The horror of the film was that of a gorry, disgusting kind – and I feel like I have become desensitized to it after watching plenty of R-rated action films.
  3. Halloween was written Jeff FradleyDanny McBride (actor-writer), and David Gordon Green (Stronger) who also directed the film. I enjoyed how the movie reversed some horror tropes and how it explored parenting. I also liked the cohesiveness of the writing as well as the runtime of the film. In a day when I watched two other 2+ hour films, this one felt like an episode of prime TV. I also appreciated how realistic the movie’s writing was and how the teenagers in the movie felt real (similarly to It’s realistic youngsters).
  4. John Carpenter – the director of the original film – was involved with this sequel and mostly worked on the music. It was actually quite a great experience hearing his iconic Halloween theme in a theatre cause, even though I haven’t seen the original or any other films, I did know the theme music cause of how iconic it was/still is.
  5. Halloween’s cast consisted of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, and Andi Matichak: I absolutely loved how the 3 main characters of the film were 3 strong women of different ages!

In short, Halloween was a well-constructed film with some neat themes and some moments of disgusting horror.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Haloween trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Smallfoot

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to my once-in-a-blue-moon review of an animated film. This time, we are discussing Smallfoot!

IMDb summary: A Yeti is convinced that the elusive creatures known as “humans” really do exist.

  1. Smallfoot was written by Karey Kirkpatrick, Clare Sera, John Requa, and Glenn Ficarra. I actually quite enjoyed the film’s story and how it took a popular myth – that of the bigfoot – and reversed it. The actual story was also well written: it was quite similar to the story’s of a lot of children’s film but it was executed really nicely.
  2. Thematically, Smallfoot wasn’t breaking any grounds either. On the other hand, a big part of the world still can’t make these themes into a reality (looking at you, US), so maybe they are not that common. Smallfoot highlighted the importance of integrity and called for a complex truth rather a simple lie. It invited us to question everything rather than ignore stuff and had an ultimate message that the old way might not necessarily be the right way.
  3. Smallfoot was directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. I didn’t know that going in but this film was actually a musical. I guess its kinda fitting then that a song – Niall Horan’s ‘Finally Free’ that was released as a promo for this movie – was the thing that got me to see the movie. I actually quite enjoyed the rest of the soundtrack too, as I unironically enjoy pop music.
  4. The animation of the movie was really beautiful. It was also used effectively in all the slapstick humor of the film. I wasn’t the biggest fan of that part of the film but all the physical jokes got a great reaction from the audience at my screening. And it wasn’t just the kids who were laughing.
  5. Smallfoot had quite a star-studded voice cast, led by Channing Tatum (Kingsman 2), James Corden (I loved his voice work both here and in Peter Rabbit. His voice is instantly recognizable!), and Zendaya (The Greatest Showman). Common, Gina Rodriguez and even LeBron James also had supporting roles.

In short, Smallfoot was a pleasant all ages film with some neat messages and catchy songs!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Smallfoot trailer

Movie review: Venom

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to a review of a movie I thought was better than everyone else did. This is Venom!

IMDb summary: When Eddie Brock acquires the powers of a symbiote, he will have to release his alter-ego “Venom” to save his life.

Writing

Venom was written by Jeff Pinkner (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Dark Tower, Jumanji), Scott Rosenberg (script doctor on Spider-Man), and Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr.Banks and Fifty Shades of Grey) and their script was okay (better than it had any right to be, looking at the mish-mash that is these writers collected filmography). This film was truly an origin story, so it was quite by the numbers but executed well enough. The set-up was successful and the movie did have callbacks to the things it set up. The science fiction ideas (and the villain’s plan) were definitely more fiction than science but its a comic book movie, so we should not expect anything else. I was quite impressed with the romantic plotline and thought that the dialogue between Hardy’s and Williams’s characters was really good. The jokes were also decent.

While Venom started out as a villain, he has become more of an anti-hero in the comics (so I have heard, haven’t read much of it). He was definitely an anti-hero type in this movie. My one gripe in the film was actually his switch from being a villain to a hero of sorts: I didn’t necessarily find that change of heart believable. Mostly because it wasn’t really explained fully.

Directing

Venom was directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer and he did quite a good job. First, I would like to applaud him for telling a comic book story in under 2hours. Venom was around 100 minutes long and that was perfect: not too short (and rushed) and not too long (and dragging)! The action was good too but not particularly original. Venom vs Riot fights were cool but messy and hard to follow. The CGI of all the symbiotes was okay: really good in some scenes and a bit messy in the scenes of heavy action. The soundtrack of the film had a lot of hip-hop and rap music and that came across to me as the film trying a bit too hard.

Acting

The cast was certainly the best part of this film. Tom Hardy (Mad Max, Dunkirk, The Revenant, Legend) was a great lead: he was both a believable everyday-man but also had that charisma of a Hollywood star. Michelle Williams was also great and it was nice seeing her in a more pop-corny film as she usually does more high brow films (Manchester by The Sea, The Greatest Showman, All the Money in the World, I Feel Pretty). Riz Ahmed (Rogue One, Jason Bourne) was also a great villain – he delivered a sleek performance of a self-controlling maniac.

Mid and Post Credits

Mid-Credits scene was a teaser for a Venom sequel and a promise that a certain character will show up in the sequel (celebrity cameo included!). Post-credits scene was a bit of a disappointment as it was a teaser for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The trailer for that movie also had just come out and was actually showed before Venom. So, a trailer before the film and a teaser after seemed like a bit of a heavy-handed marketing/advertising strategy.

In short, Venom was an entertaining enough comic book movie. I didn’t have many expectations, therefore, I was able to have a good time.

Rate: 3.8/5

Trailer: Venom trailer

Movie review: Skate Kitchen

Movie reviews

Hello!

And welcome to the review of a film you probably haven’t heard of before but really should watch! This is Skate Kitchen!

IMDb summary: A teenaged skateboarder makes friends with a bunch of other skateboarding girls in New York City.

Writing

Skate Kitchen was written by the director of the film Crystal Moselle, Jen Silverman, and Aslihan Unaldi. It told a story of a group of skateboarding girls but was so much more than just that.

First, it explored a subculture that I haven’t seen put to film before (I remember really wanting to learn skateboarding at around 12-13, even bought a board and everything. Never ended up learning it. Oh well, I still have time). It also showcased, celebrated and explores female friendship and female development that happens with one’s friends help (learning from friends, talking openly about explicit topics, questioning one’s beliefs). While 18 seemed like a bot of later than usual time for parents problems and teenage angst, it also drove home the point that development is personal and can happen at a variety of ages. Also, Skate Kitchen had a sweet message about parents – if you actually talk to them, they might be accepting (communication is key). By putting skateboarding culture and female friendship together, the movie also tackled gender roles and broke them with pleasure. Absolutely loved that part.

The main conflict in the film had to do with the idea of a ‘girl code’ or certain rules that govern female (or any) friendships. Another problem that the movie tackled was the youthful hypocrisy of the main character: complaining about to somebody about their friends being bad people while being a bad friend to her own friends.  The ending of the film, where the conflict and the problems were resolved by simply saying sorry seemed a bit weak. In my personal experience, a simple apology does not necessarily work.

Directing

Skate Kitchen was directed by Crystal Moselle, who has mostly done documentaries and short films prior to this. It reminded me a lot of Ingrid Goes West – another colorful, youthful, contemporary, Sundance darling of a film. It was also partially similar to Tangerine and The Florida Project in its focus on a specific underrepresented thing (transgenders and single mothers, respectively) and also with its visual style. Those two films and Skate Kitchen all felt like documentaries. They felt (were) real and intimate, captured with a mobile camera by using a lot of close-ups. The skating (tricks) shots were magnificent too. It was also interesting to see a film, which focused on a ground culture – skating – have so much of its setting be elevated, upon the roofs of new york’s skyscrapers.

Acting

Skate Kitchen’s cast consisted of real skateboarding girls, that the director met on the streets of New York: Rachelle Vinberg, Jules Lorenzo, Ardelia Lovelace, Nina Moran, and Kabrina Adams among others. As they were all previous/real skateboarders, the physical stuff and the stunts were impeccable. The more challenging acting parts – dramatic dialogue and monologue – were a bit stiff but that’s understandable as they were all non-professional actors. The one professional actor of the ensemble was Jaden Smith and he was actually good in the film and not annoying as his real-life persona is.

In short, Skate Kitchen was a fascinating and grounded exploration of female friendship and skateboarding subculture worthy of everyone’s attention.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Skate Kitchen trailer

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