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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Movie review: Murder on the Orient Express 

Movie reviews

Hello!

A glamorous whodunit has landed in theatres. This is Murder on the Orient Express.

IMDb summary: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.

Prior to seeing the film, I had some knowledge about Hercule Poirot: I and my aunt used to play a Poirot video game, where you had to either assist the detective in solving a mystery or you were playing as the detective. In addition, while I haven’t seen any of the previous adaptations of this book, I did go straight to the source and read an original novel by Agatha Christie. I would love to read more of her writings about Poirot but that extensive list is a bit overwhelming.

Writing

Agatha Christie’s detective novel Murder on the Orient Express was adapted to the screenplay format by Michael Green (the writer of 3 (not counting this one) big movies of 2017: Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Blade Runner 2049). I thought that he did a fairly competent job. Since I have read the book only recently, I noticed a few changes in the story, mostly in the set-up, the locations, and the character traits. Other than these small details, the narrative stayed the same and the ending, which I was a bit disappointed by while reading the book, also stayed the same. In the film form, I did not mind the ending that much. I’m just wondering whether that complex reveal and its various tie-ins were explained well enough for a viewer, who wasn’t familiar with the story in the first place, to grasp.

I quite enjoyed the character development that Poirot received. I don’t think these particular details of his past were in the original book but I’m sure they were taken from one of the other Christie’s books of the same series. The emotional vulnerability that the character exhibited in the film made me believe his final decision (the one that came from the heart) more believable. The other characters did not receive much character development unless it was directly related to the case. Since the plot also involved a lot of performative elements, even the character development that was given could not be fully trusted.

Last few points on the script: I feel like it had a more overtly political tone than the book had, or at least elements relating to race, nationality, and governance, were more noticeable in the film. Murder on the Orient Express also had a fair few of chucklesome moments and a surprisingly big amount of sexual innuendos.

Directing

Murder on the Orient Express was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has quite a lot of experience directing adaptations of classical books (mostly Shakespeare). He has also worked with the fantasy, action, and fairytale genres with Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and Cinderella. Overall, I thought he did a great job with this movie. I believe that the glamour of the setting was well realized, while the limits of it were used for the benefit of the film. The picture had quite a few impressive looking long tracking shots and also a couple of very unique looking straight-overhead/from the top shots. A couple of scenes of more obvious action-y nature were added to keep up the pace of the film, while the extensive interviews of the book were placed in various inventive locations around the train to make them more interesting. The black and white flashback sequences were a nice touch. My only gripe with the visuals of the film was the fact that some wide exterior shots looked really fake and too obviously CGI.

Acting

Kenneth Branagh was quite spectacular as Hercule Poirot. When a director plays the lead in his own film, I always get a bit worried, but I think Branagh handled the challenge well. I think he portrayed the character eccentrically enough but didn’t go into the cartoon territory (which was my worry). Poirot actually seemed like a serious and real person with some unique quirks.

The supporting cast of the film was quite extensive and full of big-name talent. The actors all delivered good enough performances with their limited screen time. Johnny Depp (Pirates 5, Fantastic Beasts, Black Mass, Alice 2) had his most ‘normal’ performance, so maybe the audience members, who have been turning away from him and his over the top roles, will come back? It was also really nice to see Daisy Ridley in a non-Star Wars role and Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Pixels) in another live-action rather than voice role. It was also interesting to spot Michelle Pfeiffer and Judi Dench (Tulip Fever, Spectre) doing something more mainstream after mother! and Victoria&Abdul, respectively.

Penélope CruzWillem Dafoe (Death Note, What Happened To Monday, The Great Wall, TFIOS), Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.Derek JacobiMarwan Kenzari (The Mummy, The Promise, Ben-Hur), Olivia Colman (The Lobster + she is taking over the role of the queen on The Crown), Lucy Boynton (Sing Street), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (The Magnificent Seven), Sergei Polunin (he is a ballet dancer, so the count’s jumping kicks were legit), and Tom Bateman all starred in the roles, ranging from small to tiny, but the limited size of their roles did not limit the quality of their performances.

In short, Murder on the Orient Express was quite an enjoyable old-school thriller.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Murder on the Orient Express trailer

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Movie review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Movie reviews

Hello!

The summer movie season is already in full swing. Let’s see what it has to offer in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales also known as Salazar’s Revenge.

IMDb Summary: Captain Jack Sparrow searches for the trident of Poseidon.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I have always been a fan of this franchise despite its flaws. The third’s film is my favorite (and I’m definitely in the minority) and its third act – one of my most rewatched action sequences. Also, the role of Jack Sparrow is the only kooky role that I still like Johnny Depp in.

Writing:

Pirates 5’s screenplay was written by Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Indiana Jones 4, next project – the live action Lion King) with some input on the story by Terry Rossio (who had a hand in creating these characters in the first place). In general, I have mixed feelings about the quality of writing for this film and wish it was better because it could have been (like the writing for so many blockbusters these days – come on, Hollywood, just hire some amazing TV writers!).

To begin with, I thought that the set-up for the narrative was too reliant on coincidences, while the twists and turns in the plot – just way too convenient. The film was also going all over the place with the multiple plotlines that were just thrown together. It was nice to see all the old characters and the new one were good too but I just wish they all would have fit into the narrative more organically. Another problem with the reveals in the story is that they came out of nowhere. They were surprising, for sure, but not in a good way. Not in a way ‘I didn’t see it coming but I can retrace the steps of the reveal now’ but more like ‘Oh, so you have come up with this like a year ago and not when you released the previous movies in the series’.

Having critiqued the script, I would now like to mention a few neat writing moments which really impressed me. First, I loved seeing the young Jack Sparrow. In addition to the de-aging technology being really impressive, it was really nice to see Sparrow as an efficient and clever sailor and not just drunk and babbling, even if lovable, idiot. The explanation of how he got the iconic costume and the name was also much appreciated. I also liked the fact that the story of The Turners was continued through their son. The new female lead was also a well-enough written character – I liked that she was a person of science who was confronted by the irrational legends and myths. The feminism aspect could have been handled better, though. The writing for the villain – Salazar – was also quite good. He is no Davy Jones, but then again, Jones had 2 movies worth of development while Salazar had only half of that. Jones might also get even more (further on that in the After-Credits section). Lastly, I also enjoyed the attempt at expanding the mythology of this world.

Directing

The Norvegian directing duo – Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg – best known for their Kon-Tiki film (about an expedition on a raft across the Pacific Ocean) helmed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and did a good job. Having previous experience with water-centric films definitely helped them because the movie did look gorgeous. The locations themselves and the way they were realized on screen were just spectacular. The action wasn’t bad either – it was definitely entertaining and exciting, just not as impressive as it used to be before. This might be because I have seen too many Pirates of the Carribean movies or just action films in general. One particular action sequence – the first one centered on the robbing of the bank – really reminded me of the 3rd act heist in Fast Five but only done with horses instead of the fast cars. The visuals of the map in the final act (the island that’s the perfect image of the sky) were really cool-looking too.

No Pirates of the Carribean review cannot not mention the soundtrack of the film. It was really nice to hear the iconic theme music as well as the rest of the soundtrack, which, this time around was not done by Hans Zimmer but by his long-time collaborator/student Geoff Zanelli.

Acting

Johnny Depp (Transcendence, Alice, Black Mass) was fine in the movie. He was doing the same thing he always does, but I have already said, this is the only role of his that I can stomach his eccentrics in. Please, God, don’t let him screw up Grindewald in the Fantastic Beasts sequel.

The two new leads this movie introduced were both YA alumni – Brenton Thwaites (of The Giver) and Kaya Scodelario (of The Maze Runner). They were better replacements to Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley than the romantic couple from the previous film – On Stranger Tides – played by Sam Claflin and Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. I hope that Thwaites’s and Scodelario’s careers can get a boost from this movie but I don’t think we will see more of them in these roles. Maybe in a supporting part in a sequel but I don’t see them getting a solo/duo spin-off (more on that in Post-Credits section).

The villain of the picture – Salazar – was played by Javier Bardem – Hollywood’s go-to Spanish actor for villainous roles (No Country For Old Men, Skyfall). Well, one can’t argue that Bardem is really good at playing these types of characters and he was truly menacing as Salazar – the hunter of pirates. His next project is Aronofsky’s Mother!. 

Geoffrey Rush was also, once again, back in the role of Barbosa. While I felt that his character was kinda tacked on, it was nice to see a different side of him. His demise, however, was mostly wasted and should have been built-up more (both story-wise and emotionally).

David Wenham also appears in a film, playing a secondary villain and a high-ranking officer in the British Navy. He is basically just a replacement for the character that Tom Hollander played (and in a much better way) in the original trilogy.

Post-Credits

If you sit through the 10 minutes of the credits, full of digital artists’ names, you will be treated to a potential teaser for a Will Turner spin-off. I really liked the character in the original trilogy and Orlando Bloom does not seem to be doing much, so a Will Turner or a Turner family-centered spin-off might actually be quite good or could at least happen. Maybe Keira Knightley could also be in it and actually get a few speaking lines (she just cameos and says nothing in Dead Men Tell No Tales). Thwaites’s Henry Turner and his new girlfriend, played by Scodelario, might also have a place in that picture.

In short, if you are a fan of the franchise, you will probably be able to overlook the problems with the movie (like you did many times) and will enjoy it for what it is. For all the regular movie goers – Pirates 5 is a good enough time at the movies but not a required viewing.

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales trailer

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The Mystery Blogger Award Nomination

Movie previews, Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another blogger award/tag type of a post. I have already written an answer to a similar tag – The Liebster Award, but now I’m participating in The Mystery Blogger Award, thanks to The Cinematic Explorer. I highly suggest you check out her blog, full of great movie reviews of all the new releases.

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by OKOTO ENIGMA with an intention of forming a community of like-minded bloggers that appreciate each other’s work.

The rules of the tag/award are: 

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

So, without further ado, let’s begin!

The 3 things about myself:

  1. While cinema is probably my main hobby, I’m also an avid reader. Last year, I managed to finish 100 books and did a post to celebrate this achievement. I’ve also recently started a bookstagram @sharingshelves to share my brief ideas on various books.
  2. I’m currently an undergraduate student of Anthropology and English Literature at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.
  3. Although I live in Scotland, I wasn’t born there. Having said that, in the past few years, I absolutely fell in love with this country and got used to calling it home!

The 5 answers:

  • Who’s your all-time favorite actor? *While my current favorite actor constantly changes, my all-time favorite actor is probably Johnny Depp. I grew up watching his movies and I still try to see all of his new work, even if, lately, his films weren’t the best, in terms of quality. I just can’t seem to give up on him even if the majority of the viewers already did.
  • What’s your favorite type of film genre? *Sci-fi. Thriller comes in close second, though.
  • Who’s your favorite Director and what’s their best film to date? *Without a shadow of a doubt, Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park!
  • If you could see any film early (before its release date) this year, what would it be?*Wonder Woman. I’m a huge fan of a character and I also want to see if the DCEU can succeed on their third try (I’m not counting Man of Steel, as that film, although acts a start of the franchise, is also kinda separate).
  • Pirates or Wizards? *WIZARDS! C’mon, Harry Potter!!!

The blogs I’d like to nominate:

My 5 questions to you:

  1. Chain theaters/Multiplexes or Independent Film houses?
  2. Favorite film festival?
  3. Favorite motion picture from your birth year?
  4. The first movie you watched at the cinema?
  5. An upcoming movie that you can’t wait to see?

My best posts:

I’m quite proud of all the post I’ve written but especially happy with those that go against the popular opinion. So, for example, I’m quite proud of the positive reviews I’ve given to movies such as We Are Your Friends, The Legend of Tarzan, and The Accountant. They all have been panned by the professional critics but passionately defended by an amateur one a.k.a. me.

Thanks again to The Cinematic Explorer for my nomination and to OKOTO ENIGMA for creating the tag. I hope you have fun answering the questions and continuing the tag!

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Movie review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Movie reviews

Hello Hello Hello!

Welcome to the review of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. If my triple greeting wasn’t enough of a hint – I’m super excited to review this film! A few weeks ago, I’ve done a preview post for this picture, where I talked about my personal relations to this universe as well as the original textbook novella that inspired the movie, so, without further ado, let’s travel back to the beloved magical universe!

IMDb summary: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD (gonna give another spoiler warning when I talk about the big reveal)

Writing and Story

The author of the original HP series and all the extra material – J.K.Rowling – is credited as the sole screenwriter for this movie. If that’s the truth (that she wrote the whole script by herself), I have to applaud her. I was a bit worried that she wouldn’t be able to transition from the novel writing to screenwriting (she did collaborate with a few playwrights when writing The Cursed Child play), but she proved me wrong ten times over. I loved how imaginative the story was, how it expanded the already known magical world and how it was just purely entertaining and enjoyable.

Moreover, I loved the fact that this movie and the narrative can and did stood on their own – although Fantastic Beasts is technically an HP prequel, it didn’t rely too heavily on the previous knowledge of and love for this franchise. Also, with all the speculation about the sequels to this film, even before it came out, and the upcoming Grindelwald/Dumbledore arc, I was worried that this movie would get hijacked by the future set-up but it wasn’t! Fantastic Beasts was first and foremost Newt Scamander’s and his beasts’ story, while the teases came in second. An important reveal happened at the end when Newt’s main plot was already over and it wasn’t obvious at all – there was only one spoiler-y visual cue for it in the film. Honestly, if I hadn’t read the rumors online and if I wasn’t actively looking for their evidence in the picture, I would have been super surprised by the reveal.

On top of expanding the magical world, Fantastic Beasts and Rowling did a good job of incorporating the said world into real history. I loved the fact that Newt arrived in NY by boat – that scene reminded me of a similar scene in last year’s Brooklyn. I liked how the New Salem anti-wizard movement had verbal and visual relations to the actual Salem Witch Trials. That jazz club and the whole setting of the 1920s was well realized too – it’s one of my favorite historical eras, so I loved seeing its magical version on screen.  Lastly, the decision to portray the U.S. magical world as more strict and the wizard/muggle relationship as intolerable seemed kinda appropriate for the contemporary world. I wonder if that was Rowling’s way of critiquing the modern and real-life discrimination that we have yet to get rid off.

Another interesting thematical idea were the Obscurials, who are created when a child tries to suppress his/her magical abilities. This was a perfect and a very on-theme/appropriate for the magical world way to encourage the movie’s viewers to be themselves. Furthermore, I applaud J.K.Rowling (just keep clapping) for touching upon quite a dark topic of abuse in a family film.

Lastly, the character development was really nice. I loved the writing for the character of Newt – his backstory was intriguing but I also liked that they remarked that people change and they do leave their pasts behind. I also loved Newt’s life motto – that worrying makes one suffer twice. All the other character, wizards and no-majs alike, were cool and interesting as well. Their inner relationships were cute and natural – they didn’t seem forced or pushed. In general, I’m intrigued enough to want to spend more time with these characters.

Directing and Visuals 

David Yates, who did the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th HP films as well as this year’s live-action Tarzan, directed Fantastic Beasts and did an amazing job. I’m really happy that he was the one directing because he already has such a great knowledge and understanding of this world. I absolutely loved the visuals, starting with the newspaper opening and ending with the epic 3rd act fight. I loved the fact that visuals (like the story) were sorta familiar but not repetitive – fresh and exciting. The design of the actual beasts and of the Obscurials was cool too: scary, inventive but sort of tied to reality.

Yates also did a wonderful job at finding a balance between epic action and slower character moments – the pacing was top-notch. In addition, the cinematographer Philippe Rousselot also deserves the praise for helping bring this world and its action to the big screen in such a spectacular way. Lastly, all the production and set design teams should be honored for their work on the movie, but I want to give a special appreciation shout out to Colleen Atwood, who did the costumes – I absolutely loved all the coats and classy formal costumes. The coats especially reminded me of BBC’s Sherlock which I just finished watching and I’m currently obsessed with.

The score by James Newton Howard was great too, although, I was most excited to hear the familiar theme music, which was originally composed by John Williams. 

Acting

  • Eddie Redmayne was so good as Newt Scamander. I absolutely loved the character because I could relate to him so much (introverts, unite!). Redmayne’s performance was super fitting for the character: awkward, shy, vulnerable but confident and skilled in his field. He was adorable and super likeable too. I have been a fan of Redmayne since 2012’s Les Miserables and although I did enjoy his indie films, like The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl, I’m quite happy to see him in a more mainstream (and succseful) film (let’s pretend that Jupiter Ascending didn’t happen).
  • Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein – I loved her character –  she was an Auror – as well as Waterson’s performance. I wasn’t familair with her as an actres before (although, I did see her in Steve Jobs), but she did impress me. Her next movie is the 2017’s Allien prequel.
  • Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski was amazing too. His character was the funniest and the most likebale and relatable out of the whole cast. I wasn’t familair with Fogler’s work either, but I do hope that he returns as the character of Kowalski in the future films.
  • Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein was great too. I liked the fact that we got to explore a sorta new (mentioned in HP 5) skill of magic – Legilimency – through her character. Sudol is an alternative singer-songwriter, but I was fascinated by her acting abilites too – she portrayed Queenie as a very loveable and free-spirited character, in a realistic and natural way.

BIG SPOILER WARNING

  • Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone. I didn’t predict the reveal concerning his character and I was led to believe that the Obscurial would turn out to be his siter. Nevertheless, his performance was great – I love the facts that Miller can play such weird and closed-off characters, but also be able to embody super likeable and extroverted characters like the Flash (based on the Justice League trailer). I also like the fact that he brings his indie acting skills and makes them work in a mainstream film.
  • Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. I loved Farrell in the role and, as I said, I would not have seen the big reveal if I wasn’t looking for it. I really hope that the filmmakers find a way to bring back Farrell as the real Percival Graves. If not, well then at least we can watch him in other pictures – I still need to check out the highly praised The Lobster.
  • AND The Big Reveal and The Biggest Spoiler …..as speculated online, Johnny Depp is playing Grindelwald and he did have a cameo appearance and a few lines to say in this movie. He looked a bit different than I imagined Grindelwald to be but I am open to Depp proving me wrong since I still believe that he is a great actor, despite the all the mishaps. Now, moving forward, the crucial decision to make for the filmmakers is who to cast as Dumbledore? Grindewald/Dumbledore relationship is super complicated and will obviously be imporatnt in the future films, so the actor that will take on this role not only has to do Dumbledore justice but also have to able to hold his own againt Depp.

SPOILERS END HERE

In short, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is an amazing return to the magical world that should please both the fans (it satisfied me) but should also interest the non-fans as well as people who are new to the franchise (if there are any left, though). The story is fantastic, the acting is great (the cast is full of both movie stars and smaller talent), and the visuals are superb. I’m very much looking forward to another decade of magic!

Rate: 4.9/5

Trailer: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them trailer

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Movie review: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Movie reviews

Hello!

This summer’s movie season seems to be dominated by comic book movies and live-action fairytales. So, let’s review the latest feature of the second genre – Alice Through The Looking Glass. I’ve  done a preview post for the film, where I discussed its director as well as other cinematic versions of Alice’s story – find it here.

While I didn’t really understand how Snow White and The Huntsman film got a sequel earlier this year (The Huntsman: Winter’s War), I do understand why this fairytale based property turned into a franchise – it earned a lot of money.And by ‘a lot’, I mean more than a billion dollars. I don’t know how it managed to do that, but it did. The Jungle Book – other 2016’s live action fairytale – will probably be joining the billion dollar club soon as well.

Writing

The film was written by Linda Woolverton, who wrote the first Alice live-action film as well as Maleficient and has also worked on stories of Disney animated classics (The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan). I have mixed feelings about the writing and the story of this film. Let’s go over the different parts of the plot point by point:

  1. The film opens with Alice as a Ship’s Captain. While it was definitely cool to see a female heroine in a typically male role, it was also extremely unbelievable, giving the 19th century setting of the film. (+/-)
  2. The film once again explored the gender norms and while this issue always angers me, I feel that it could have been approached in a less annoying, more complex and more satisfying way. (+/-)
  3. The idea of ‘impossible is possible’ was once again depicted in the film. Alice’s hero arc was to start believing in the impossible once again and I think that the film succeeded in portraying this development. (+)
  4. I also really enjoyed the topic of time in the film. How Alice first thought that Time was a villain and thief, but learned that he/it is actually her friend and a gift. In addition, I enjoyed the commentary of how the Time was against her, both literally and figuratively. The idea that when one’s clock runs out of Time, one dies was also quite nice and was interestingly represented in the film. The way Alice learned to heal with Time and parted with her father’s pocket watch at the end of the film was also a nice gesture. The main idea that one cannot change the past but can learn from it was also a wonderful message. Lastly, the character of Time could turn his inner clock to speed up Alice’s monologue – even though I enjoyed the majority of the film, at times, I really wanted to do the same and speed up the movie, but, sadly, couldn’t do that at the cinema. (+)
  5. The film had a lot of obvious exposition, which was really annoying. The screenwriter should have found a more organic way to convey the story rather than just have the characters spelling it out. (-)
  6. The movie also served as a prequel/backstory for the Red Queen, the White Queen, and the Mad Hatter. We found out why the Red Queen was crazy and had such a giant head, that the White Queen is not as innocent as she seemed to be and that Mad Hatter had family problems. While I appreciated the new info and was entertained by it, I also feel that some characters benefit from the lack of backstory – this allows the viewers to fill in the blanks however they like. (+/-)
  7. The pacing of the film was also a bit wonky. It simultaneously felt both rushed (from pit-stop to pit-stop) and like it was dragging on without anything really happening. (-)
  8. The parallels, presented in the film, were quite nice: how the chronosphere could be piloted like a real ship in the ocean of time and how both Alice and The Mad Hatter did not want to end up as their parents but still chose their family over everything else. (+)
  9. The way The Mad Hatter and the other Tea Time participants mocked Time was actually quite funny and clever (e.g. ‘I am ON Time’).(+)
  10. In the middle of the story, Alice returned to the real world for 5 min for no real reason. However, this allowed the scriptwriter to include the example of that stupid ‘science’ of 19th about female hysteria, diagnosed to any strong-headed women – another annoying sequence of the film. (-)
  11. The film’s heroine – Alice –  was also kinda the villain of the film for the majority of ti and it the last act had to fix her previous mistakes. I kinda feel that she managed to fix everything too quickly – I wish there would have been at least a few permanent consequences. Also, the fact that putting back that sphere suddenly settled everything, didn’t make much sense either. (+/-)
  12. The film’s ending was quite touching – Alice’s and The Mad Hatter’s goodbye was both sweet and touching. The ending in the real world was also cool, yet, as I’ve mentioned already, unbelievable in the 19th-century setting. (+/-)

Directing

Tim Burton did not return to direct Alice’s sequel and his presence (the cooky-ness and craziness) was not felt as much as I was expecting it to be felt. Instead, Burton was replaced by James Bobin. Bobin is a TV director and has only directed two feature films in his career – The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted. Like the writing of Alice 2, its directing is also deeply flawed. However, I do feel that somewhere underneath this mediocre/less than mediocre film is a good movie. In general, the film definitely felt less Burton-y a.k.a. less dark, more light-hearted and lighter in the color scheme. The opening shot of the moon turning into Cheshire Cat’s smile was nice. All the visuals were good for the most part, but there were a few scenes where the CGI could have been neater. The actors also should have been told to interact with green screens in a more believable manner and their over-acting should have also been toned downed by the director. There is a difference between cooky-cartoonish characters and cartoon parodies/cliche characters, and I feel that Through The Looking Glasses’s characters, sadly,  belong to the second group.

A few cool visual effects were the Second/Minute/Hour monster, the sequence of the stopped Time and the hand-drawn-like end credits sequence. Questionable visual effects were Red Queen’s fruit/vegetable servants. The costumes, which also belong in the discussion of the visuals, were quite interesting. Alice’s Chinese-inspired costume was cool and impressive as well as the top of Time’s outfit – his bottom (those white tights) were a questionable choice as well.

In general, the way the film was directed left me with a lot of questions. The inconsistency was felt in the story too but it was even more obvious in the directing.

Acting

  • Mia Wasikowska as Alice was okay. Nothing bad but nothing ground-breaking. A film of hers that I’ve enjoyed much more is Jane Eyre.
  • Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter was also fine. Depp knows how to play crazy characters and we all know that. I wish he would take more serious roles like the one in Black Mass.
  • Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was also serviceable. She screamed once again and acted like the child, because why not? I prefer Bonham Carter in less scream-ish roles – I especially liked her in Les Miserables.
  • Anne Hathaway as the White Queen was probably the most annoying character. Her hands and finger movements were distracting and added nothing to the character. Recent enjoyable films with HathawayThe Intern. Also, watch or re-watch The Devil Wears Prada. She’s really good in that picture.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as Time was the most interesting character, I just wished that he wouldn’t have acted as clumsy as he did. As I’ve mentioned in the preview post for this film, I hate Baron Cohen’s satirical characters (Borat, Bruno) but really like him in theatrical roles like this one or like the ones in Les Miserables and Hugo.
  • Ed Speelers as James Harcourt. Speelers played the only redeeming male character of the film, so I appreciated the fact that they at least tried to balance the female v male dynamic. I liked Speeler’s reaction shots to the events that were happening around, and, although he didn’t have much to do in the film, I welcomed his presence. If you want to see more of his work, may I suggest the film Plastic.

A few notable actors provided voices for CGI characters, including Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar/Butterfly – I’ve always enjoyed listening to his voice and this film was no exception. I also appreciated the fact that the feature was dedicated to his memory. Stephen Fry voiced the Cheshire Cat and Michael Sheen voiced the White Rabbit alongside a bunch of other actors. Nothing really stood out as exceptional voice work: some characters sounded cool and interesting, while others had quite annoying voices.

Music

The two songs from the soundtrack that I think I’ll listen again are White Rabbit performed by Pink as well as the original song that she has written for the motion picture – Just Like Fire.

In general, Alice Through The Looking Glass was an okay film. It had a lot of flaws in all aspects, but it still somewhat entertained me.

P.S. Sorry if this review is not that great, I’m writing it in an airport, after not sleeping for more than 24 hours.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer

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Movie PREVIEW: Alice Through The Looking Glass

Movie previews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie preview, this time for a live-action fairytale sequel – Alice Through The Looking Glass. At first, I conceived the following passages as parts of the film review but then the draft became too long, so I decided to publish it separately. So, let’s discuss Tim Burton’s previous work as well as Alice’s story in various mediums.

Burton’s filmography

Tim Burton is known for working with certain actors again and again, including Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Coen, Alan Rickman and, of course, Johnny Depp (all of these actors will also be part of Alice 2). He is also one of the most distinct filmmakers/auteurs when it comes to style (which can only be described as cartoonish yet dark, cook-y, theatrical, over-the-top and plain weird). Let’s do single sentence reviews of his previous films:

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Edward Scissorhands (1990): a sweet love story (+), that explores people’s differences and our need for home (++), and stars Anthony Michael Hall in his most annoying role (-).

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Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992): Burton’s Batman and its sequel paved the way for the modern superhero movies (+). Although both films are full of 90s cliches, they are still enjoyable and fun to watch (-/+). Their mise-en-scene and style resemble the Gotham TV series, which, most likely, was inspired by Burton’s films (+). Speaking about acting, the role of Batman helped Keaton a lot and is still positively affecting his career to this day – Birdman would not have been that successful of a film without the real life similarities between the character and the actor (+).

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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) : Halloween/Christmas classic and a musical (+), a stop-motion animation – the hardest to create but the most spectacular to watch (++). I can’t believe that it wasn’t directed by Burton, only produced by him (!).
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Planet of the Apes (2001) : I watched this movie way too young and had a lot of nightmares afterwards (same with 1997’s Mars Attacks!) (-), nowadays, it doesn’t really stand up to rewatching (-), but at least this film’s lack of success inspired a great reboot franchise (+).

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Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (2005): childhood favorite (+), has a wide appeal –  who doesn’t love sweets? (++), and one of more colorful films by Burton (+++).

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007): bloody musical – literally (+), Victorian gothic/steampunk-ish (++) and stars Jamie Campbell Bower – one of my favorite musicians/actors (+++).

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Big Eyes (2014): one of the most interesting biographical films when it comes to the subject matter (+), features amazing performances by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz (++), and is also the most ‘normal’ film by Burton (+/-).

Alice in Wonderland: 1951 and 2010

1951’s Alice in Wonderland is a classic example of old school Disney: the movie has a simple story, runtime of a little over an hour, colorful hand-drawn graphics, catchy songs, talking animals (and plants) and tons of pure childish wonder.

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The 2010 version is way darker and much more adult. It’s also more modern in that the visuals were created with CGI. The story also received an update in a form of additional plotlines. Sadly, this did not make the movie better or more original. I can’t believe that the feature premiered 6 years ago and I also don’t understand how the Hollywood took so long to make the 2nd film, especially when the sequel’s sole purpose was/is to capitalize on the first film’s success a.k.a. the box office haul of 1 billion dollars. The only thing that I remember from the first movie is actually the theme song by Avril Lavigne. Don’t think that that’s a good thing.Alice_in_wonderland_poster_2_1_original1

Alice Through The Looking Glass

From the trailer, the movie seems fine – more of the same stuff that we saw in the first film, although the sequel seems even darker. I, once again, like the theme song from the trailer – White Rabbit by Pink. The inclusion of Sascha Baron Cohen is also an interesting choice – it reminds me of Scorsese’s Hugo. I really like Baron Cohen in theatrical roles like this one, but I can’t stand him in comedies like Bruno or Borat. Burton will only be producing Alice’s sequel, but his creative influences will definitely be felt. In September, Burton’s directorial work for 2016 – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – will premiere

Books

Back in the 19th century, Lewis Carroll published two books about Alice:  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Although the movies share their names with the books, the motion pictures are not direct adaptations of these stories. Both films have taken bits and pieces from the two books while also adding some original material. As a child, I remember reading Carroll’s first story and I still have my edition of Alice in Wonderland.

What are your hopes for the film? Are you even going to see it? Is the market over-saturated with live-action fairytales?

Bye!

5 ideas about a movie: Black Mass

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another short format movie review. I’m sorry that it took me such a long time to finally review this film, but better late than never (that’s literally my motto in life). Without further ado, let’s talk about Black Mass.

  1. Black Mass is a story about Whitey Bulger – a crime boss in 1970s Boston, who was only arrested in 2011. Weirdly, this wasn’t the first film about a criminal(s) that I have watched this year. The other one was Legend and, sadly (or badly, for this movie at least), I did prefer the 1960s story of the London underworld to its US counterpart in a the following decade. While Black Mass was an interesting story and had amazing acting, it wasn’t as exciting and as complex as the story of the film Legend. While that film managed to turn criminals into characters that you could potentially sympathize with, Black Mass‘s characters were straight up villains with zero redeeming qualities.
  2. When talking about Black Mass, you cannot not talk about Johnny Depp. He single-handedly was the star of the film and carried the whole plot forwards. I am so happy that Depp is back on track because he has played to many stereotypical characters in the past few years. Although, he is the one who created that stereotype for himself. Anyway, I was happy to see him doing something different. However, I was probably the only one, since he didn’t receive any nominations from SAG Awards and Golden Globes. At least he has lots of movies coming up – both originals and sequels (so he won’t fully forget that stereotype just yet).
  3. The film had a great supporting cast as well. I especially liked the performance of the Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons and Dakota Johnson. 
  4. The film’s plot was a bit hard to follow at times and the time jumps could have been done more neatly. I would call this type of a plot a plateau – it didn’t build up to anything but it also didn’t deteriorate. It was always on the same note. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the dialogue of the film – it was smart, witty and definitely worth listening attentively. The film was directed by Scott Cooper, with a screenplay by Jez Butterworth (who has worked on Spectre and Edge of Tomorrow) and Mark Mallouk.
  5. Lastly, since this film was telling a true story, let’s briefly touch upon the real life events. To my mind, some of the criminals received way too short prison sentences. They all should have been imprisoned for life, despite the fact that they gave up useful info. But then again, the FBI had to be seen as the most humane part of the equation, since it has helped Bulger to rise to power. The credits, which showed real footage, were a nice way to end the film and tied everything together.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: Black Mass trailer

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Movie review: Transendence

Movie reviews

Hello everybody!

I am back with another movie review. This time it is Transcendence – a film me and my aunt watched this week.

Summary: The movie follows the creation of the artificial intelligence. When one of the researchers of this project (Dr. Will Caster played by Johnny Depp) is shot with a radioactive bullet by gang of people who are fighting against new technologies, his wife (Evelyn Caster played by Rebecca Hall) and science partner (Max Waters played by Paul Bettany) decide to transfer his mind into an artificial intelligence. The thing they have created becomes so powerful, that it is threatening all of humanity. In the end, while believing that the thing they created is not actually Will – their friend and lover, they destroy it by uploading virus into the machine. However, I believe that they should have let it be, because he/it didn’t do anything bad, he/it just wanted to help people (treat blindness, cancer and other illnesses or injuries). The machine or the thing (whatever you want to call it), as it’s dying, explains to Evelyn that he truly is Will, saying he did what he did for her because saving the planet and helping people were her wishes. Still, we have to mention, that while helping them, he turned them into hybrids which were connected to him, so he might have been creating an army of followers. We will never know what his true intentions were.

The movie’s closing shot shows us that, while both Will and Evelyn died, their consciousness is still alive with the help of nano-particles. This means, that the world has one more chance of recreating the artificial intelligence. This also means that we may get a sequel.

Transcendence is directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut. Because the director is cinematographer the movie is brilliantly shot and there are couple of scenes that are breathtaking.

The movie raised the question for me: Am I self-aware? How can we find an answer to this question? I know that I am aware of the situation I am in, I know who I am, where I am, who is surrounding me, but am I sure that everything I think I know is actually true.? What is more, would someone be so kind and explained to me what the difference between self-consciousness and self-awareness is?

I definitely recommend this movie for all sci-fi fans that love science and especially nanotechnologies. We know so little of them, so I am starting to believe that we can actually achieve things that were shown in this movie in the future. The only criticism I have is that I believe they could have wrapped everything up in a shorter period of time. Let us say in one and a half hour time instead of two hours. After the uploading of Will consciousness into the computer, the action really slows down and you are getting bored a little bit. However, the final scenes make up for the slow middle part. Rate 4.5/5

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCTen3-B8GU

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Movie Saturday!

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

Today was a beautiful day in Lithuania, sunny and warm. However, I spent it indoors, watching movies instead of enjoying nice spring weather.  Bellow you will find my short review of each and every one of them as well as recommendations, when to watch it. Enjoy!

1. I started with a romantic-drama “The Spectacular Now”.  I wanted to watch it a long time ago, because it has one of my favorite actresses – Shailene Woodley – in it. This movie really surprised me – it is not a stupid romantic comedy with silly jokes, but a very emotional, inspirational movie with a very-well written scenario and well-developed characters. The movie follows lives of two teenagers – Sutter Keely and Aimee Finecky. It shows how they search for their true identity, how they deal with parents’ problems and of course – how they fall in love. The film is based on a book with the same name written by Tim Tharp (I am definetly going to read it) and premiered at a Sundance Film Festival, where it was praised by critcs. I would definetly recommend this movie for a girls night, when you want something romantic but still something authentic that captures the intensity, the beauty and the scariness of first love. Similar movies – The Perks of being a Wallflower.  Rate – 5/5

2.   The second movie was a classical one – “The Great Gatsby” (2013 version). I love Leonardo Dicaprio in every single movie he stars in, but this one didn’t amaze me. Maybe that’s because I am not huge fan of 1920s era? Or maybe because I was so angry with one of the main characters – Daisy – for treating Gatsby the way she did. Short summary: The movie is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view. He is in a sanatorium to treat his alchoholism. He tells a story of a millionaire Jay Gatsby, who devoted his life for a woman he did not even knew. The plot has a few twist and turns and no happy ending.  It is based on the book with the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is not a first time this story is made into movie. In 1926 it was made into a silent film, in 1949 and 1974 into a proper motion picture, in 1999 – into opera and finaly in 2000 – into TV film. Rate 3/5

3. The third movie I watched – “Inception”. It came out 4 years ago – in 2010. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars in this one.  Unlike Gatsby, this movie really astonished me. The plot was interesting and unpredictable and the overall idea of the movie was very innovative and exciting. The science fiction thriller explores the posibility of controling dreams, dreaming inside of dreams and so forth. I would not be surprised if this fantasy would actually come true in a couple of year’s time. Despite having Leo, film’s large ensemble cast includes Ellen Page,  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine. This movie is perfect for Sci-fi fans out there as well as dystopian fantasy lovers. Rate 4/5

4.  The last movie of the day (night – I finished it around midnight) – “The Lone Ranger”. This one tells a story of the Lone Ranger and Indian named Tonto as they attempt to find justice in a corrupt world of XIX century. It is based on a book “Lone Ranger“ by Fran Striker and George W. Trendle. Johnny Depp portrays Tonto – Comanche Indian who is looking for revenge for his tribe. The Lone Ranger’s role went to Armie Hammer. His character is also trying to avenge those, who were close to him. William Fichtner plays Butch Cavendish, a ruthless and cannibalistic outlaw who is the main antagonist of the movie. The film is full of funny little jokes that usually involve horse and in my opinion, Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors today and all his characters a very complex, interesting and unique. Rate 5/5

That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I am planning to post a short description of my Easter – I will tell you all about traditions in my family. Hope you have a great day. Bye.

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