Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

Screenplay: J.K. Rowling

134 mins. Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.

 

Let’s talk everyone’s favorite Wizarding World Film, The Crimes of Grindelwald…wait, people don’t like this one? Well, we’re still going to talk about it.

It’s 1927, and the evil and radical wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Sherlock Gnomes) has escaped custody while being transferred to Europe to be tried for his many villainous crimes. Some time after, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables, The Aeronauts), unable to get past his international travel ban, is tasked by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Sherlock Gnomes: A Game of Shadows) to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Justice League), who is shockingly still alive, and save him from the grips of Grindelwald. Lots of other stuff happens too.

This movie’s biggest problem is that is has no real discernible plot by the end of it. Yes, it all comes down to the search for Credence, but there’s too much other stuff happening in this film to keep focus on the main plot. It just gets lost in all that. I’ve seen the film several times and even I have trouble relaying the plot to people who ask about it. There are all these elements in the film that seemingly have no impact on the central plot…yet. Granted, this is a film that may be a lot better when seen in context of the entire series once it’s finished, but it shouldn’t have to be. Each of the Harry Potter films and even the first Fantastic Beasts have been able to stand on their own in some capacity, so even though a lot of individual elements of the movie work, it doesn’t fit together all that well.

The Crimes of Grindelwald has some truly great elements, though. For example, the returning cast is incredible. I love Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, and he’s great here. I wish we had more time with the main four together again because Katherine Waterston is great here, as is both Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol as Jacob and Queenie.

I also was so surprised by Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was initially hesitant to see Depp enter the Wizarding World, but I think what we get from him as a villain here is interesting and exciting, but again, I just wanted more. His interactions with his followers and enemies, and specifically in the films finale, are so powerful.

There are some cool creature designs and magical elements to the film, but as with everything else in this movie, there just aren’t enough of these elements in a bloated film. Too much stuff jammed into not enough movie.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a mess of a movie, but there are still things I really liked in the movie. The ideas are there, but J.K. Rowling was not capably able to make a film that works on its own as well as part of a larger story. So many pieces of this movie could have worked in a stronger shell of a film. The extended cut fixes some of the problems, but not enough to completely save the movie. They need to fix the franchise with a simpler follow-up with the next film, and they need to focus on the few things that worked here.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of David Yates’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

For my review of Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, click here.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

Screenplay: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

120 mins. Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.

iMDB Top 250: #68 (as of 7/10/2015)

 

How often does a film get a good sequel 36 years after its initial release? Not often. That’s the answer, and it was my worry when I heard that Mad Max would be continuing the franchise with a fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road featuring a new Max in Tom Hardy (Inception, Child 44). In this new chapter, Max Rockatansky is captured and used as a blood bag by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Moby Dick, Sleeping Beauty) and his War Boys. When the War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies, X-Men: Days of Future Past) takes Max along on his hunt for Joe’s missing wives, stolen from him by his Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, Prometheus, Dark Places), Max gets caught in a war on Fury Road and his alliances to only himself must be put into question.

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Director George Miller (Happy Feet, Babe: Pig in the City) proves that age is only a number as he controls the most high-octane action spectacle that I can recall in recent memory. His unique blend of story with nonstop action gives audiences a personal tale of freedom, redemption, and the ability to survive in a world without laws.

Tom Hardy is a great new Max. He doesn’t need to speak often to convey the complex emotions and depression that Max struggles from after the loss of his wife and child. His leadership struggle with new ally Furiosa, played excellently by Theron. Just like the previous films, this film isn’t entirely about Max. It’s a Furiosa movie all the way. Many have complained that the focus should be on Max, but what they should realize is that this series is rarely ever focused on Max. Each adventure is usually told as a legend from another’s perspective and in Fury Road, that perspective is Furiosa’s.

Hugh Keays-Byrne and Joe’s brides, including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Zoe Kravitz (Divergent, Dope), all do great work as well, with a standout crazy performance from Nicholas Hoult as Nux.

The usage of 80% practical effects over computer-generated images helps create an astoundingly realistic yet overwhelmingly fantastical view of the apocalyptic landscape. The screenplay, a combination of sequences storyboarded and story written to format it, works so well. And then there is Miller’s reliance on trying new things, like hiring wife Margaret Sixel to edit the film. Sixel has no experience editing, but he entrusted her to use her novice skills to create something new and interesting, coupled beautifully with the furious score from Junkie XL.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best times you will have at the theater this summer and contains some of the best action sequences ever put to the screen. Miller’s creative decision to devise something new rather than fall back on remakes and rehashes helps to bring in fans of the original while attracting new attention from non-fans.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of George Miller’s Mad Max, click here.

 

Divergent (2014)

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Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet

Screenplay: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor

139 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

 

I wanted to like Divergent. I’ll repeat myself, I wanted to like Divergent, but the movie gave me nothing with which to like. I’m going to start my review today with a quick analysis of the plot, and then list all of the reasons why it isn’t the film I wanted it to be.

Divergent is the story of Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendents, The Fault in Our Stars) a teenage girl who exists in a dystopian landscape of the near future. In this interpretation of the future, there are five factions each defined by literally one trait. There is Abnegation, a group of those who practice selflessness (of which Tris is born into). There is Amity, those who choose peace over all else. There is Candor, the truth-tellers. Let me repeat that, there is a group of people that tell the truth, and that is it. There is Erudite, those of intelligence. There is finally Dauntless, the strong and brave (of which Tris envies). The Dauntless are presented as apparently a mixture of parkour and West Side Story. There are also the factionless, who have been sent away from their group from disobeying or failure. Then, there is Divergent, someone who embodies multiple factions over one. The people of future Chicago do not care for Divergents as they are unpredictable. Tris is, at the start of the film, about to perform in a test that will determine where she should be placed. It is basically a big sorting hat, with one major exception: the test doesn’t really matter because you can just choose whichever faction you would like to join permanently. Tris takes the test and discovers she may be a Divergent, so she chooses Dauntless just because. There she meets Four (Theo James, TV’s Golden Boy, Underworld: Awakening), a Dauntless leader who may just have a few secrets of his own. As she becomes more accustomed to Dauntless life, she also becomes more susceptible to being discovered as a Divergent, and the entire story is about the testing she will do to prove herself a worthy Dauntless.

So anyway, that is the movie.

My first problem with this movie was the whole test thing having virtually no effect on the story in the way that anyone can choose any faction. I just found it an extra-convoluted way of fashioning a plot point.

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Then, there is this faction breakdown, how can there be only five traits worthy of having a group of people and why would you want to keep these groups separate? I just don’t get the gravity of the situation and how this helps whatsoever.

Four’s character is kind of stupid. So if you haven’t seen the posters, avert your eyes, because [SPOILER ALERT] Four has a giant tattoo on his back of the five factions, which essentially tells us that he is a Divergent as well. Perhaps he would’ve been better off with a tattoo of a big bulls-eye, since that is pretty much what he announces to the world with it.

This isn’t really a complaint, but I did find it odd that this film is like a whos-who of people who have gotten it with Shailene Woodley in other movies, with Miles Teller (from The Spectacular Now) as an adversary, and Ansel Elgort (from The Fault in Our Stars) as her brother. Blech.

I want to point out the pacing as well, this movie drags on like a son of a bitch. By the time revelations start coming on, I had completely stopped caring and I just didn’t want to hear any more about these factions.

The performances are good (or merely as good as this poorly written script would allow) but none in particular stand out because the characters are too flat and one-dimensional. Now, I haven’t read the book series, but I should hope we get to flesh these characters out in another installment.

The look of this film is pretty much the unused sets and costumes from The Hunger Games movies. I could go on and on about the superiority of that franchise at this point, but you probably can already tell that.

Now, I did enjoy the Lord of the Flies vibe I got from the Dauntless faction, if they would just spend less time bickering and trying to kill each other and more time fleshing out these nameless bodies before bickering and trying to kill them.

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All in all, Divergent is a disappointing and underwhelming beginning to this franchise, which has already set markers for a remaining three films (the final book will be split into two films, because fuck, why not?). Perhaps all of these confusing and convoluted plot points make more sense in the book, so I won’t trash the novel because, as I said before, I haven’t read it yet, but as far as films go, this is a very boring and lazy fantasy.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Neil Burger’s Divergent? Did you pass the test or choose to be factionless to get out of the theater? Let me know!

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