Category Archives: Family

Wide Awake (1998) Review

iljlm6scctbgmgnbvyzz

Wide Awake

Time: 88 minutes
Cast:
Denis Leary as Mr. Beal
Dana Delany as Mrs. Beal
Joseph Cross as Joshua A. Beal
Rosie O’Donnell as Sister Terry
Timothy Reifsnyder as Dave O’Hara
Robert Loggia as Grandpa Beal
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

A fifth grader (Joseph Cross) goes on a search for God after his grandfather (Robert Loggia) dies. Along the way he gets into tons of trouble at Waldron Academy an all-boys school.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Most people first learned about M. Night Shyamalan upon the release of The Sixth Sense, which became an instant hit and the point where his career took off. What most people don’t know is that The Sixth Sense wasn’t his directorial debut but rather his third movie, having made two prior movies that not many people heard of with Praying with Anger and Wide Awake. Both are pretty hard to gain access to, but I managed to watch the latter. Being overshadowed by later films aside, there’s also a good reason why Wide Awake is not really heard of. Despite being made in 1995 (and written in 1991), Harvey Weinstein basically buried the film’s release with the distribution, and was not released until 1998 (1 year before The Sixth Sense was released). Honestly I wasn’t expecting much based off the premise, although I was interested to see how Shyamalan started before his first hit. The movie wasn’t actually that bad, although I wouldn’t call the movie good either.

006761

The premise of Wide Awake does sound like a premise of a lifetime movie about religion, and much of the actual movie feels like that. With that said, the premise did have potential, it could’ve been about exploring grief from perspective of a child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do anything interesting. The movie consists of the main kid trying to speak with God, having doubts and then something makes him believe again. Most of the time the movie is spent at the catholic school and at his home with occasional flashbacks of him hanging out with his grandfather. The themes were heavy handed with no subtlety at all. Not that every movie needs to feature their themes in a subtle way but for this topic it needed to be handled with a degree of nuance. However this is a movie where the main character literally Googles “Who’s God?”. The subject matter is presented clumsily and overly sentimental, with a whole lot of cheese. It never reaches a level of profoundness. The journey of the lead character’s search for God and answers isn’t particularly interesting. Spoiler alert, it pretty much ends up with “God works in mysterious ways”. It’s a very bland movie with very little surprises, and the characters and writing feel rather fake. The writing for the children especially doesn’t actually feel like what children that age would do or say. Despite aiming to be touching and moving, ultimately it feels rather hollow and doesn’t really leave any impact. Even the attempts at humour fall flat. Despite how bland the story was, in some ways I found the movie weirdly interesting in some of the odd choices it made. It especially felt odd that this 10 year old kid is having this desire to find God, so it was somewhat intriguing at first to see what they would do next. However by the time it reached the third act, I wasn’t into it any more. One way it does feel like a Shyamalan film is a twist at the end, which was certainly a weird choice to make that really didn’t add anything to the movie.

MV5BNWQ0MmVjNTUtNzE3ZC00NTQ2LWIxMDktMTdmMDEzYTI5YWZlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjI0Mjg2NzE@._V1_

The acting is nothing special, it’s functional and not bad, but nothing really worth mentioning. Generally, the acting of the children was surprisingly okay for the most part, the writing for them however is weird because some of these 10 year olds speak with so much self-awareness that it’s unbelievable. Joseph Cross does relatively well in his part of the lead character. Nothing much to say about the adult actors, I will say that despite Rosie O’Donnell being on the cover art of the film, her character of a baseball loving nun basically doesn’t have much involvement with the plot.

large-screenshot3

As I said earlier, M. Night Shyamalan directs Wide Awake, and there is basically no hint of Shyamalan from this one movie. He’s definitely still learning as a filmmaker and it does have some technical missteps. There is so much voiceover throughout, with the main character constantly giving internal exposition about the past and his feelings. It can get overbearing and annoying really quickly. The cutesy and quirky score can get a little annoying too. On the whole though it is competently made, some shots are nicely composed, and I wouldn’t say it’s a badly directed movie.

tWdWyAFhStzWSzXzscTg4HLjf7G-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000

Honestly the most interesting part of the movie is the fact that M. Night Shyamalan made it at all. That is probably what kept me somewhat patiently staying with this movie, without his name attached I probably would’ve given up on it earlier on. That aside, it’s a very mediocre yet harmless Hallmark movie that’s quite forgettable. I would actually put this as one of Shyamalan’s worst movies, though keep in mind I only dislike a few of his movies. Wide Awake is honestly not worth checking out unless you’re interested in seeing how he started as a filmmaker.

Spirited Away (2001) Review

mnpRKVSXBX6jb56nabvmGKA0Wig

Spirited Away

Time: 125 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro Ogino/Sen
Miyu Irino as Haku/Spirit of the Kohaku River
Mari Natsuki as Yubaba/Zeniba
Takeshi Naito as Akio Ogino
Yasuko Sawaguchi as Yūko Ogino
Tsunehiko Kamijō as Chichiyaku
Takehiko Ono as Aniyaku 
Bunta Sugawara as Kamaji
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her parents.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1]

Spirited Away was the first film from Studio Ghibli that I watched, and also among the first anime movies I’ve seen. It had been on many ‘best films of all time’ list, so I had been meaning to get around to it for a while. I went in knowing nothing, and it turned out to be really great and somehow lived up to all the hype and more.

2mnj1ilinx551

I didn’t know much about the movie going in and it turned out to be quite a surprise. So if you haven’t seen it before, I think it’s worth not knowing too much before watching. I can say that it’s very creative and endearing, and while it’s a cliché to say it, it’s quite magical. There’s a lot of imagination on display, it’s really like nothing I’ve seen before. It is a coming of age story about childhood innocence, that combines drama, adventure, comedy, and fantasy all into one film. There’s also so much in this movie to unpack it’s actually astounding.  It’s whimsical but is also surprisingly dark and frightening when telling it’s very mature story about greed and identity, in fact the whole movie is more mature than I thought it would be. There are plenty of themes of environmental pollution, labour relations greed and the passage to adulthood. It’s also a movie full of hope throughout. The plot itself is nicely structured and finely paced while the memorable and well thoughts out characters make the drama more compelling and are cleverly fleshed out in the script. The film does slow down to allow time for main character Chihiro and the audience to the see the beauty of the world. The movie does take time in its roughly 2 hour long runtime for her to take part in seemingly mundane things which does add a lot to the movie, I was invested throughout. One of the ways that the film handles worldbuilding well with a level of richness is the lack of exposition, showing the world, story and characters with the visuals and character actions instead of telling it to us straight up. It’s just all well crafted and put together overall.

xl0p6gprknj41

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is animated and made absolutely beautifully. It was made in the early 2000s, and it still really holds up well today. It’s not just the movements but also the designs and imagination, as well as the environments. It really lets the visuals speak a whole other language to you as the viewer, the visual storytelling does a lot of the work for the movie without needing characters to speak it. It’s absolutely creative especially on a visual level. I can only imagine how kids felt watching this for the first time, mainly the designs of some of the creatures and people as they were far scarier than most animated movies. The score from Joe Hisaishi also adds a lot to the movie.

60237-spiritedaway

Spirited Away is a much watch for sure. It’s a beautiful and endearing come of age film, that’s animated excellently. If you wanted a place to start watching anime, Spirited Away would be a great place to begin. It’s an extraordinary film that was a complete pleasure to watch, and a movie that I do want to come back to someday.

Let Me In (2010) Review

279759ee3d6d55fb48c077d96a224f4a21a4ddcf

Let Me In

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Contains violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Chloë Grace Moretz as Abby
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Cara Buono as Owen’s mother
Elias Koteas as a detective
Director: Matt Reeves

Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) leads a lonely life and is bullied by his peers at school. He happily befriends Abby (Chloe Grace-Moretz), his new helpful neighbour, without being aware that she is hiding a secret from him.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Let Me In was a movie I was interested in watching for quite a while. I deliberately held off watching it till after I watched the original, Let the Right One In, which turned out to be quite a great movie. The remake sounds like a bad idea at first, even with it being led by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and being directed by Matt Reeves. Not all American remakes are bad, but most of the time they don’t turn out the best, especially when it comes to remakes of foreign horror movies. Surprisingly, Let Me In is a pretty decent remake, and I liked it quite a bit, however it definitely could’ve afforded to take more risks.

qTfD4IE6yPKcABTCw3oGYotelJT-1366x445[1]

Usually American remakes of foreign movies simplify the plot, and water things down. The good news is that for the most part, Let Me In doesn’t do that. It’s pretty much the same plot just done again. That’s also the bad news however, it really doesn’t do a whole lot new outside of adjusting it to an American setting. The small changes that were added to the plot really didn’t serve the story much, including an opening which flashforwards to the middle of the film. There’s also a forced police investigation throughout the movie, and it just didn’t find it to add that much to the movie all that well. The main problem from the original with the bullies being over the top evil is also a problem here too. With all that being said, the rest of the movie is good, removing the original from it all. The pacing is good across its roughly 2 hour runtime, the story is engaging, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit.

m-211r-df-00407[1]

The acting is great, and one of the highlights of the film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz are in the main roles, and I’d go so far as to say that it’s on the level of the two leads from Let the Right One In at the very least. Their relationship and connection just felt genuine and real, and they shared great chemistry. Moretz is particularly fantastic in the role of the vampire girl, conveying so much emotion, it ranks among her best performances. The supporting performances are also good, mainly from Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas.

let-me-in-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000[1]

Matt Reeves’s direction is really great as to be expected, he was definitely the right person to handle this remake. It’s an absolutely gorgeous looking film, and I might actually slightly prefer the cinematography in this just a bit more over the original. Reeves gave Let Me In very atmospheric, on a technical level for the most part, it’s great. There are some faults especially when it comes to the use of CGI. Minor spoilers here, but without going into too much depth, there’s an attack in both versions that happens under a bridge by Eli/Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz), and it was done effectively in the original and wasn’t too silly. However, in Let Me In they added some CGI to her during scenes like this, and it just made it really goofy and over the top. There were some sequences that were done in a more over the top way in general, some of it is fine, but other times it doesn’t work so well. Let Me In is noticeably more bloody and violent than the original, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

LetMeIn[1]

Let Me In could’ve been a lot worse, but there was definitely room for improvement. At the very least it could’ve benefited from trying something different. With that said it is still a pretty good movie, directed greatly by Matt Reeves, and acted wonderfully by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz. It is worth watching for sure, just make sure not to watch it right after watching the original or anything.

Stardust (2007) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains frightening fanstasy scenes & violence
Cast:
Claire Danes as Yvaine
Charlie Cox as Tristan Thorn
Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia
Mark Strong as Prince Septimus
Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare of the Caspartine
Jason Flemyng as Prince Primus
Rupert Everett as Prince Secundus
Kate Magowan as Princess Una
Ricky Gervais as Ferdiland “Ferdy” the Fence
Sienna Miller as Victoria Forester
Peter O’Toole as the dying King of Stormhold
Director: Matthew Vaughn

To win the heart of his beloved (Sienna Miller), a young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman (Claire Danes) named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Stardust was the only Matthew Vaughn movie I hadn’t watched in it’s entirety yet, I’m pretty sure that I saw parts of this movie a while ago since moments of it look familiar. Going into it, I really didn’t know what to expect. A fantasy based movie is not something that I could see Vaughn of all directors do. However, this movie was quite surprising and much better than I thought it would be, I had a good time with it.

Stardust is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, throughout it’s a purely fantasy movie and really leans into that. Much of the movie is cheesy but in a good way, you can really have fun with the movie. You really can’t take this movie too seriously, and thankfully it doesn’t take itself seriously either. It has a bunch of fantasy adventure clichés and does very little to subvert them, so this isn’t necessarily something that you’ve never seen before. It’s also fairly predictable, you can generally see which direction the movie is moving towards. As a light, silly adventure fantasy movie however, I had a blast with it.

This movie has such a surprisingly large cast, young Henry Cavill and Ben Barnes appear in minor roles and even the legendary Peter O’Toole shows up for a brief appearance. On the whole the cast did very well. Claire Danes and Charlie Cox are the leads and they really worked. The interactions between the two characters were pretty typical of fantasy romances but Danes and Cox still had some good chemistry together. Michelle Pfeiffer is I guess the primary villain of the movie as one of a trio of witches looking to get Claire Danes. Pfeiffer really hams up her role at just the right level, and it really works for this movie. Mark Strong has played multiple villains and he also plays a villainous sort of character here, however there’s something about him here that’s just so entertaining to watch, he’s definitely having fun here. The MVP however was Robert De Niro who shows up in a supporting but memorable part here, definitely the standout from the whole cast. Other supporting players like Sienna Miller also play their roles well. Honestly the only one that didn’t really work was Ricky Gervais who appears briefly and even in that short time was really out of place.

This doesn’t actually feel like a Matthew Vaughn film and I don’t mean that in a bad way. He’s actually handled this movie very well. As I said with the writing and story, this movie really leans into the fantasy aspect and it’s done very well, the production design and costumes are on point. At times the visuals can look a little dated but you can look past it, because most of them are really nice to look at, even a decade later.

Matthew Vaughn’s take on a fantasy movie with Stardust was way better than I thought it would be. Even the cheese and the over the top elements were entertaining, it knew what it was, and the cast were really good here. There are for sure better fantasy movies and it’s by no means a classic, however I just really had a lot of fun with this movie. It’s worth a watch at least.

Dumbo (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier
Nico Parker as Milly Farrier
Finley Hobbins as Joe Farrier
Michael Keaton as V. A. Vandevere
Danny DeVito as Max Medici
Eva Green as Colette Marchant
Edd Osmond as the motion capture of Jumbo Jr.
Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington
Creator: Tim Burton

Struggling circus owner Max Medici (Danny Devito) enlists a former star (Colin Farrell) and his two children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that the animal can fly, it soon becomes the main attraction — bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. The elephant’s magical ability also draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere, an entrepreneur who wants to showcase Dumbo in his latest, larger-than-life entertainment venture.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I heard some not so good things about the remake of Dumbo, and I was already pretty doubtful. While I haven’t watched the original Dumbo animated movie, I’m not a fan of the recent live action Disney remakes of their classic animated movies. So despite the talent involved, I was quite sceptical but nonetheless wanted to check it out. The remake of Dumbo turned out to be okay really, despite a lot of flaws.

The script is definitely the weakest part of the movie. It starts off very weak and takes a while to pick up. Although this movie has Dumbo as a big part of the story, the ‘heart’ of the movie is a father and two children, and their problems. Unfortunately, it feels rather hollow and tact on, what’s worse is that this plotline is essentially driving the first act, with Dumbo playing a small part in it. It does get better as it goes along, mainly from the moment where everyone sees Dumbo really flying for the first time. From that point to the end, it’s relatively decent. I wasn’t invested in the story or characters, but I was reasonably entertained for the rest of the runtime.

The main characters of the movie are played by Colin Farrell, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, as a family. Farrell is a great actor for sure, but here he’s reduced to just moping around, and he was just fine at best. More focus is drawn to the kid characters, and unfortunately they aren’t that good. Hobbins doesn’t do all that much and just stands there, and Parker is written and directed so poorly, she delivers a bunch of bland exposition, even when she talks about she feels (she literally just says how she feels in a very monotone way). I can’t really blame either of the actors, because none of them are given good material to work with at all. Michael Keaton plays the villain of this movie, and he’s an over the top and one dimensional cartoon, he doesn’t bring down the movie though. The two actors that really stand out are Danny Devito and Eva Green. Devito does the same things as he does in most movies, but Green actually does very well in her scenes, definitely a highlight of the movie.

Knowing Tim Burton and his movies, it’s actually surprising how restrained he was with his direction here. It wasn’t as crazy and bizarre as any of his other movies (especially thankfully not like his Alice in Wonderland). It was at the right level for a Dumbo movie. On a technical level it was pretty good, from the cinematography, the production design, the visuals, the costumes, and the likes. The only bit here that feels like over the top Burton was Michael Keaton’s performance, and as I said before, that wasn’t necessarily bad. The visuals for the elephants, mainly Dumbo, were also quite good, even though he’s not a main character, he was handled quite well.

Dumbo 2019 isn’t bad but it’s not as good as it could’ve been, especially considering the talent involved. Tim Burton directed it rather well, Danny Devito and Eva Green shine, and it gets better as it progressed, but that’s it. It’s heavily worn down by bad writing, and it’s hard to get emotionally connected to the story and characters. Still, if you’re curious to check it out, I’d say that it’s worth a watch.

Hugo (2011) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret
Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle
Ben Kingsley as Georges Méliès/Papa Georges
Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustave Dasté
Ray Winstone as Claude Cabret
Emily Mortimer as Lisette
Jude Law as Mr. Cabret
Helen McCrory as Jehanne D’Alcy/Mama Jeanne
Michael Stuhlbarg as René Tabard
Christopher Lee as Monsieur Labisse
Director: Martin Scorsese

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in a Paris railway station, tending to the station clocks during his uncle’s (Ray Winstone) mysterious absence. He scrounges food from the vendors and steals mechanical parts from the owner of a toy shop, Georges Melies (Ben Kinglsey). In fact, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker and he has inherited his father’s (Jude Law) talents for all things mechanical. Years before, Hugo’s father found an intricate mechanical man, but they could never figure out how it worked. Hugo befriends Melies’s ward, Isabelle (Chloe Grace-Moretz), and together they have an adventure, one that centres around Méliès himself.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I recall Hugo being the first movie of Martin Scorsese’s that I saw, and I remember liking it quite a lot when I did. With that said, it had been a while since I’ve last seen it, and I had a feeling that I would appreciate it more upon a more recent viewing, and having watched that more recently, I was right. While it looks as a kids movie and certainly looks like that, it also works as something much more, and is overall very well made.

Hugo may be by far Martin Scorsese’s most age appropriate film, and I think there’s a lot here that kids may like, but there’s more parts to it that they aren’t going to fully get or appreciate. Teenagers are more likely to enjoy it more than kids to be honest. The movie starts off pretty well, however the second half is where the movie really takes an interesting turn, as it becomes Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. At this point of the movie, you begin to get why he chose to direct this. It focuses on an era we don’t see portrayed in film much, that being the silent era, and ends up being a tribute to filmmaker Georges Melies. The only part I didn’t like of the movie was for whatever reason there was sometimes random comedy thrown in, it wasn’t particularly funny and distracted from the rest of the movie. Thankfully it didn’t happen too often, but you are taken out a bit when its present.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles, the only thing that was a little distracting was that you often forget that Hugo is set in France, given that there aren’t many French accents present over the course of the movie. Asa Butterfield was pretty solid in the lead role, and Chloe Grace Moretz was also good, with the two of them sharing some decent chemistry. The supporting cast are also really good, with Ben Kingsley (giving his best performance in a long time here as Georges Melies), Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jude Law, Christopher Lee and more doing a lot of good work. Some of the actors don’t get to really do much and maybe get like one or two scenes (like Law and Lee) but they do a lot to make you remember them. Now there are some supporting characters which really didn’t serve much purpose outside of some brief comedy. Much of the comic relief surrounds the Station Inspector played by Sacha Baron Cohen, although he occasionally poses as an antagonist to the title character, a lot of the scenes with him are just for comedy. Cohen definitely plays the role as he’s meant to, and the fault isn’t him. There are scenes where they try to imply that there’s more to this character outside of being a cartoonish and typical authority figure in a kids movie, but they never follow through with it really so those moments feel pointless.

Martin Scorsese as usual directs this very well, but this is a very different movie from him, it involves a lot of visual effects which at least up to that point you wouldn’t see him using a ton. Scorsese is one of those filmmakers who uses CGI as tools to tell his story, while Hugo is indeed fantastic to look at and there are plenty of times where you can see it in all its glory, you never get the feeling that it’s just on screen to only look pretty. It’s never at the detriment of the rest of the film. Much praise should also go towards the production design, with this visually modernized France from the 20th Century, making it really appealing to watch. Robert Richardson’s cinematography really captures the whole movie very well, it’s generally a gorgeous looking film throughout.

Putting aside some distracting comic relief, Hugo is on the whole really good and deserves more praise amongst Martin Scorsese’s filmography, even though it was widely praised upon its release, it’s unfortunately been forgotten. It’s a gorgeous movie directed excellently by Scorsese per usual, the cast generally do well in their roles, and it works as both a kids movie and a tribute to cinema, as well as the power of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

Aladdin (2019) Review

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Will Smith as Genie
Mena Massoud as Aladdin
Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine
Marwan Kenzari as Jafar
Navid Negahban as The Sultan
Nasim Pedrad as Dalia
Billy Magnussen as Prince Anders
Director: Guy Ritchie

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a lovable street urchin who meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), the beautiful daughter of the sultan of Agrabah (Navid Negahban). While visiting her exotic palace, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic oil lamp that unleashes a powerful, wisecracking, larger-than-life genie (Will Smith). As Aladdin and the genie start to become friends, they must soon embark on a dangerous mission to stop the evil sorcerer Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) from overthrowing young Jasmine’s kingdom.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I missed 2019’s version of Aladdin in cinemas, and I’ve only recently caught up on. I really didn’t know how I would feel about it leading up to its release. I like Naomi Scott and Will Smith, and I’ve liked most of director Guy Ritchie’s movies I’ve seen. However certain parts of the trailers I weren’t really feeling, not to mention I’m not that hyped for live action Disney remakes in general, even if a couple are decent. It looked like it could be a real mess, but nonetheless I gave it a shot, and hoped that I would somewhat like. I was actually surprised at Aladdin 2019, it’s not anything great but it was quite entertaining.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve watched the original Aladdin, so I can’t remember exactly how similar in plot the new movie is to the animated version. From what I can tell, largely plotwise it’s the same, however certain plot points and moments were handled differently. Having forgotten how the original movie did certain things, I don’t think I have a problem with how they handled the plot in this version of the story (except for maybe Jafar, which I’ll get to in a bit). It is a little long at 2 hours and 10 minutes. Not that it dragged or anything, just feels like it is a little stretched out. I think it’s like 50 minutes into the movie when Aladdin encounters the Genie for the first time. Maybe 5-10 minutes could’ve been shaved off the first act but it’s not a big deal. While it does some different things with the plot, it’s basically just the same plot, so there aren’t any surprises. So as the movie is progressing you’re just waiting for certain plot beats to occur. I’m not quite sure I’d call the movie ‘soulless’ (like most of the other Disney remakes have been called), but that let’s just say I was mostly just watching the movie go through the motions and wasn’t actually invested in the story.

Mena Massoud plays Aladdin and he did a pretty good job in his role. Same goes for Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, her singing was particularly good (they even give her a new original song for her to sing, that wasn’t in the original movie). Following Robin Williams’s work in the original Aladdin as The Genie is not easy by any means, he’s solidified that as one of the best animated voice performances. Will Smith however managed to have his own take on the iconic character, which was really the only thing that he could’ve done. He’s by far the standout in the whole movie and he improves every scene that he’s in. Even though I like other aspects of the movie as well, I really don’t think I would’ve liked this movie as much without Smith’s Genie. Probably the weakest link of the main cast however is Marwan Kenzari as Jafar. I don’t think it’s necessarily his acting ability that’s the problem. He’s much less over the top in this version, and instead they try to have a much more serious take, which is fair enough, they actually went all in instead of having a half measure of both the original and the new take. With that said it didn’t really work out, he’s not threatening, he’s not interesting, he’s not memorable, he doesn’t even convey any kind of presence at all. Whenever he came on screen, he just seemed like some random guy who I guess was the villain, rather than the powerful and dangerous Jafar. Supposedly there’s going to be an Aladdin sequel based on the sequel to the original animated movie titled Jafar’s Return. If that’s the case, then they are going to need to change a lot with this version of Jafar in order for him to make it work, because after seeing him in this movie, it doesn’t sound appealing at all.

I generally like Guy Ritchie and most of his work here is pretty good, definitely not one of his best movies though. The visuals are bright and overblown, which could be too much for some people, but I’m at least glad that they went all out instead of just replicating exactly what the animated movie did. The CGI mostly worked, but occasionally it had some really fake looking moments. Whenever it came to the Genie however, the CGI actually worked really well, and complemented Smith’s performance nicely. The editing could be a little off at certain points, especially near the beginning. There’s a chase scene that also had some singing and it was really rough. Thankfully the direction of the singing scenes improved later on. The singing itself was mostly fine, though most of it really sounded like it was autotuned and that really took me out of it.

Aladdin 2019 was pretty decent, although it’s got its issues, it’s entertaining, and Smith, Massoud and Scott worked well in their roles. I’m still not on board with these Disney Animated remakes, and just the very idea of them still feels like soulless cash grabs to me. I will say though, at least with Aladdin, they attempted at changing some aspects to have an ‘updated’ take on the story, even if it doesn’t completely work. If you’re the least bit curious, check it out, but if you’ve hated all of Disney’s live action remakes, then Aladdin isn’t going to change your mind.

Christopher Robin (2018) Review

Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin
Hayley Atwell as Evelyn Robin
Bronte Carmichael as Madeline Robin
Jim Cummings as: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger
Brad Garrett as Eeyore
Director: Marc Forster

Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) – now a family man living in London – receives a surprise visit from his old childhood pal, Winnie the Pooh. With Christopher’s help, Pooh embarks on a journey to find his friends – Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo. Once reunited, the lovable bear and the gang travel to the big city to help Christopher rediscover the joy of life.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I’ve been meaning to watch Christopher Robin for a little while. I don’t think I grew up with Winnie the Pooh but I was still somewhat similar familiar with it, and with it starring Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell, I was somewhat curious about it. Christopher Robin is a pretty good and heartwarming family movie, even if it doesn’t start off as great as it could’ve.

Christopher Robin isn’t just a jolly Winnie the Pooh live action movie featuring an adult Christopher Robin, or at the very least it doesn’t start off like that. At the very beginning it’s very melancholic and reflective, way too overly so. It starts with Christopher Robin saying goodbye to his Winnie the Pooh friends, then it shows him growing up as an adult and then for some reason it shows him in war, it was a really weird tone to start with, considering later on it doesn’t maintain that tone. With it starting out with that sombre tone it felt like the movie was going to be depressing by the end. I was really wondering where it was really going, and not in the good way. Where it picked up was when Christopher meets with Pooh and even more so when he comes back to his childhood home and meets his other old friends. There is quite a notable amount of light hearted humour (even if it doesn’t appear so at first), most of it coming from the Winnie the Pooh characters, and it really worked. I guess the story is not that unpredictable, the setup of the story is very familiar to some other family movies, where the father is always busy with his job and doesn’t spend much time with their child. We’ve seen this plot many times before and you can probably tell what happens in the rest of the movie just from that description. However it still works alright for this movie and its not too big of a deal that it’s nothing that new.

Ewan McGregor is good as an older Christopher Robin, as I said this portrayal of Christopher has been done with lead characters in these kinds of stories many times before and is nothing special but McGregor is still good in the role. Hayley Atwell plays Christopher’s wife and while she doesn’t get a lot to work with, she does the best with what she has and added to the movie. Christopher’s daughter played by Bronte Carmichael was also pretty good. All the portrayals of the Winnie the Pooh characters here seem quite representative of the characters from the original source material (at least from what I remember).

Marc Forster is a pretty good director, and his work on Christopher Robin is pretty good as well. The animation and designs of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the characters worked really well, with them looking like teddy bears and toys. Aside from them there doesn’t appear to be much other visual effects. It’s a pretty low key and grounded movie throughout.

Christopher Robin is well acted and solidly directed and all around pretty good. It doesn’t start off the best, with it being way too melancholic but once we get to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters again, it really picks up and it gets to be the light hearted movie it is. It’s nothing innovative but I’d say that it’s worth checking out if it sounds interesting to you.

Mary Poppins Returns (2018) Review

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating:
Cast:
Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack
Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks
Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks
Pixie Davies as Annabel Banks
Nathanael Saleh as John Banks
Joel Dawson as Georgie Banks
Julie Walters as Ellen
Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr.
Angela Lansbury as The Balloon Lady
Colin Firth as William “Weatherall” Wilkins
Meryl Streep as Topsy
Director: Rob Marshall

Now an adult with three children, bank teller Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw) learns that his house will be repossessed in five days unless he can pay back a loan. His only hope is to find a missing certificate that shows proof of valuable shares that his father left him years earlier. Just as all seems lost, Michael and his sister (Emily Mortimer) receive the surprise of a lifetime when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) — the beloved nanny from their childhood — arrives to save the day and take the Banks family on a magical, fun-filled adventure.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

Although I didn’t really grow up with it and really only first saw it when I was 13/14 years old, I really do like Mary Poppins, it’s a classic for a reason. When I heard about there being another Mary Poppins movie, I didn’t really think much of it. The director was Rob Marshall, who made Chicago (which is apparently good, I haven’t seen it yet) but also Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Into the Woods, both movies I wasn’t huge fans of. Not to mention I just didn’t feel the need for another Mary Poppins movie, thankfully it’s a sequel instead of yet another Disney remake. The only thing that somewhat interested me was Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins, with Blunt being one of the best actresses working today. Mary Poppins Returns didn’t all completely work and was a bit of a mixed bag, with some elements working alright and others not working at all. Despite this, I do maintain that it is more than worth watching for Emily Blunt’s wonderful performance as Mary Poppins alone.

I’m going to get this out of the way: if you don’t like the original Mary Poppins, there’s pretty much no reason to watch this movie, because its very unlikely that you’ll like this one either. The movie is very derivative of the original, following somewhat similar story beats extremely closely, way too closely. I’ll just say that if you had problems with The Force Awakens being similar to A New Hope, you are probably going to have a field day with Mary Poppins Returns. At times it does similar things to the original but doesn’t do it as well oddly enough. For example, the original movie did have moments where Mary Poppins and the kids would go into different worlds or be part of a song and it would work seamlessly with the story and with what is going on. While Mary Poppins Returns have some moments like that, other moments feel really out of place and don’t work seamlessly with the story, some of them even feel like they could’ve been cut from the movie entirely. The biggest example is the Meryl Streep section which was basically a song routine that really didn’t need to be in the movie. To be fair to the movie, they do make nods to the first Mary Poppins movie but none of them were cringe worthy like they could’ve easily been. It’s rather odd that despite the movie being too similar to the original, every time it tried to do something different (which is something that I wished they did more), they really didn’t work. For example there’s a long sequence in a different world that was pretty good but it ends with this darkly lit carriage chase scene. While I get what that last bit is supposed to represent, I’m sure they could’ve found a way to illustrate that without this really intense chase scene which didn’t belong in the rest of the movie. That’s just one scene though, one of the long term problems was the fact that this movie has a villain played by Colin Firth. While I get given the story there’s a need for an antagonistic presence, instead of giving him like one or two scenes and not focussing much on him, they made him a full on character that’s in like 5 scenes. Honestly its like they couldn’t decide whether to be a minor part or a full on present antagonist and just settled for somewhere in between, which was honestly the worst decision to go with. There really was no reason for a villain, but even if it could’ve worked, they didn’t exactly give him much reason to be there. Although I was following the movie fine enough, I wasn’t really drawn into the magic or the world, or even much cared about the characters or the story. I just really wasn’t that all invested in what was going on.

As much as I bag on this movie for some of the things it does, Emily Blunt’s performance is ‘practically perfect in every way’. Everything from the voice, accent, acting, dancing and singing were absolutely on point every single scene she’s in. Blunt’s performance and the way that she’s portrayed is in line with the character but it doesn’t feel like its trying to be like Julie Andrews’s version. It’s a bit of an updated version of the character that works extremely well. Every time she was on screen, everything lit up and you forget the problems that are present. When she’s not present in the scene, you really start to notice the quality of the movie dipping and then pick right back up when she re-appears. The rest of the cast are actually alright but aren’t able to hold the movie up without Blunt. To be fair to Lin-Manuel Miranda, he does add quite a bit of energy to this movie. His character of Jack basically plays the stand in for Dick van Dyke’s Bert from the original, except instead of being a chimney sweep he’s a lamp lighter with a slightly better Cockney accent. He doesn’t quite equal the same amount of boundless energy that van Dyke brought but he was good. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer are reasonably good as Michael and Jane Banks but don’t really leave that much of a lasting impression. Jane is present throughout the movie but its weird how they use her. There’s some mentions of her as a labour organiser quite frequently but it doesn’t really have any payoff by the end. There’s also some hints at a romance between her and Jack but that’s only shown in a few scenes and doesn’t really amount to anything. Her inclusion in the movie almost just felt obligatory since she was in the first movie. The kids played by Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson were good, they were at about the level of actors who played Michael and Jane in the original movie. Meryl Streep has one scene here and is basically the star of the aforementioned unnecessary song routine. Despite my problems with the scene being there, Streep gives a lot of energy in her one scene, so I guess credits should go to her for that. The problem wasn’t her, it was more the fact that the scene even exists. Colin Firth as I said plays the villain and you know how I feel about the use of a villain in the movie. It is nice seeing him in a more villainous role and does partially ham it up but unfortunately wasn’t even memorable. If his character was featured more, went more hammy or even had his own song routine (yes I know, Colin Firth doing a song routine doesn’t sound that appealing), he might’ve given a lasting impression given that the movie wants the antagonistic presence to be a character and have the audience to somewhat remember him given that they cast an A list actor in the part.

As I said earlier, wasn’t a huge fan of Rob Marshall or his Into the Woods, but his direction of the movie was actually pretty good. His direction of Mary Poppins Returns was also quite good. Mary Poppins Returns has a mix of modern day visual effects along with some classic looking animation ripped straight from the Julie Andrews original movie, giving it that nostalgic feeling that actually worked quite well. Now a big part of Mary Poppins is the music. I don’t envy anyone having to create the music for a sequel to a movie with some incredibly iconic songs. So I don’t exactly blame them for creating songs that weren’t all that memorable. All that said, while I don’t remember all the songs, I at least remember the set up, location and the visuals of the scene. The choreography and some of the creativity done were really strong. The most memorable song was ‘The Cover is Not the Book’, and there are some other songs which I could remember parts of. The ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ section was really too long though and dragged on.

Mary Poppins Returns really doesn’t all work and I feel like it might’ve worked a little more if it was released maybe 2 decades or 3 after the original movie. While the cast is generally alright and there are aspects of the direction which work well, there’s a lot which don’t work and just wasn’t all that memorable. With all that said, there are some alright bits to it and you pretty much need to watch it for Emily Blunt, who is the saving grace of the movie and holds everything together. Again though if you don’t like Mary Poppins, you aren’t going to like this one either.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange
Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander
Claudia Kim as Nagini
William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama
Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald
Director: David Yates

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.

full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] full_star[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1] Black-Star-Photographic-Agency[1]

I was reasonably excited for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I liked the first movie, despite it being reasonably decent and not being quite as great as I thought it would be, and I was interested in how the 5 Fantastic Beasts movies will go. My only concerns was Johnny Depp as the character of Gellert Grindelwald and how Newt Scamander was going to be integrated into the story (which is pretty much going to be a Dumbledore vs Grindelwald story). Having seen the movie I can say that thankfully I didn’t have the two problems that I thought I would have. However, it does present some problems of it own, including feeling a bit too overstuffed with characters and plotlines. With that said, I still really liked the movie.

There is something I wanted to get out of the way, I noticed a lot of people are complaining about how Fantastic Beasts isn’t as magical as Harry Potter. That never really bothered me, Fantastic Beasts is more adult based than the Harry Potter story, so while it does feature quite a bit of magic, I don’t really have a problem with the film not feeling as magical. Whereas the Harry Potter movies have younger characters experiencing the magical world for the first time, these films follow adults who are quite familiar with it. That is the case with The Crimes of Grindelwald, which also goes to darker places than probably the other Harry Potter movies (which is saying a lot). The first scene where Grindelwald escapes establishes the tone of the entire movie. While I was interested in what was happening in the plot from start to finish and on the whole was fine with what happened, there are some problems with the way that The Crimes of Grindelwald tells its story. The odd thing is that while the overall plot is more tied together, with it surrounding both Credence and Grindelwald (unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them where it tried to be a movie focussing on Newt Scamander finding his beasts, an obscurus and Grindelwald, very different things all at once), it is way more complicated. I appreciate the movie going a more complex route, but it is a little too complicated for its own good. It does have some moments where it throws exposition at the audience and it can be really hard to follow what is going on, I think it will really require a second viewing. However, it’s not necessarily in a ‘this movie has a lot going on and there’s a lot to process’ compliment way, because some of the difficulty understanding comes from how the story is told. Part of it is because so many characters’ goals are related to similar things but they have their own subplots. That’s another thing, there are way too many characters here. With the first movie, along with the 4 main characters, there were a few supporting characters and that’s it. In The Crimes of Grindelwald however, along with the 4 main characters, it has like 12 supporting characters. Yes, I know that some of them have like 2/3 scenes at most and don’t all have subplots, but it doesn’t feel any less jarring. To give an idea about how many characters are in the movie, there is a poster for The Crimes of Grindelwald with the caption “Who Will Change The Future?” with a lot of characters on the poster. I suggest looking up that poster, because it pretty much shows how many prominent characters there are in this movie, and aside from a few of them, most of them have their own individual subplots. It’s exhausting to even think about. Overall, it’s like some of the characters they introduces here should’ve been introduced later, or have some of the characters’ subplots done later in the other movies, because having them all here makes it hard to follow.

J.K Rowling is the one writing the stories, so plotwise, all the problems fall on her. I have a feeling I know why the issues are here, Rowling probably structured the 5 movie story arc in the structure of books and so as an individual movie, it feels really jarring. I feel like it probably would’ve been better for her to have written the stories as books first before being adapted to the big screen. Another thing that will be a point of criticism are some really odd decisions that happen with regard to the direction of the plot. The first Fantastic Beasts introduces some new aspects to the Wizarding World such as the Obscurus but nothing really that conflicted with pre-existing Harry Potter history. Without saying too much, some fans are not going to like what is done here. It’s a bit of a difficult situation criticising the decisions of the creator of the series, it’s like arguing with George Lucas about the Star Wars prequels, no one knows the world quite like him (this is pre Disney Star Wars but you get what I’m meaning), and that’s the same with J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. While initially I wasn’t sure why we needed 5 movies instead of 3 to tell this story, after the way things ended in The Crimes of Grindelwald, we are going to need as much time as possible to explain things. On the whole though, I was actually fine with the twists in the movie… with the exception with the last one. There is a twist at the end which is so insane that I’m actually wondering if I’m actually misinterpreting what it’s meaning and taking it at face value when really it’s different from what I think it is. I myself have problems even processing this decision, I can’t even dislike it because of how strange it is, I’m more confused than anything. It is difficult judging some of the decisions because so many of them are setup for the next movies, and we won’t know how well they are executed until we actually watch the later movies. As for the last twist though, Rowling is going to have to work extra hard to pull it off if it really is how it looks. In terms of things that I will blast Rowling for, there is an appearance of a well known character from the Harry Potter movies/books, this movie takes place in 1927 and this character hasn’t been born yet, yet somehow is making an appearance in 1935. I’m not sure how J.K. Rowling of all people could get one of her characters existing yet or not. Not a major plot issue but its extremely noticeable and stands out.

The performances all around were good, it’s just that some of the way the characters and their subplots were handled wasn’t the best. There were really 5 characters that worked the best compared to the others. Eddie Redmayne is still a fantastic choice for Newt Scamander, he’s awkward and likable and I like that he’s different enough compared to Harry Potter as a protagonist. While I wasn’t sure about him getting involved with the war against Grindelwald (because it just doesn’t seem like him), he is given an arc through the movie which really works for him that makes him relevant to the later movies, and I liked that. Dan Fogler returns as the muggle Jacob Kowalski and is just as likable as in the first movie, they do appropriately lessen his role as the comedic relief. He comes out better compared to the other supporting characters because he’s pretty much along with Newt for most of the movie. A surprise was Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange. She has a dark and mysterious backstory which plays into the main story, it was one of the most interesting parts of the movie. Kravitz is also great in the role. Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore was also a highlight, you can definitely buy Law as a younger Dumbledore. With that said, don’t expect to see a ton of Dumbledore, he’s definitely a part of the movie but isn’t as prominent as you’d think. However, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of him in the next few movies. A lot of people had problems with the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, both with him as an actor with his most recent performances and career choices, and with him as a person. While I still wish that someone else was in the role (because of Depp as a person), acting wise he surprised me, this is his best performance since Black Mass. Unlike most of his performances where he can be rather over the top, Depp is refreshingly subtle and restrained, yet totally committed to the role. The only thing goofy about Grindelwald is his look, although its distinct, it may have been a little over the top. They really made Grindelwald distinct enough from Voldemort, being a much more public figure, and you can see why so many people would follow him. I wouldn’t say he’s great just yet, cos we haven’t really gotten to know Grindelwald yet as a character or seen his backstory, we’ll just have to see how the next 3 movies go.

The rest of the characters are played well enough but they weren’t handled the best. Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein doesn’t really get much to do, she’s tracking down Credence and that’s really all there is to her, that aren’t really enough scenes with her outside of that. The most we really get is the potential romance between her and Newt, but even that doesn’t really amount to much by the end. There are particularly some things in the third act that don’t really have enough of Tina (hard to explain in a non spoiler review). Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein was the weaker link out of the main 4 characters in the first movie, not because of the acting but there wasn’t a ton of things for her to do. Here she has a bit of an interesting arc which is great on paper, but the way they execute it isn’t the best. She’s like completely separate from the other characters and has her own subplot but you see her like every once every 30 minutes. It’s like there were more scenes of her development that are missing, so her changes are jarring and out of place. Having more scenes would’ve benefited her arc and really fleshed it out. While it is an interesting place she’s been taken by the end of the second movie, I’m sure they could’ve executed it better. There is another plotline following William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama, a wizard tracking down Credence. While he does work within the movie and ties in with the story, it really adds another complicated element into the movie, and the plot is already pretty complicated. Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, an aurora and Newt’s brother, is decent enough but don’t add a ton. As much as I bag on the way that the characters are used in this movie, I can’t complain much about him here. You do understand though why he is here and he’s used in enough scenes. That’s more than I can say then Claudia Kim as Nagini, Kim does a fine job playing her but plotwise Nagini really didn’t need to be there and doesn’t add much outside of some nice snake transformation scenes. Maybe it’s establishing her for later sequels but it better be something significant, otherwise it just feels like J.K. Rowling is trying to establish and include literally every character that existed before Harry Potter. Thankfully Nagini doesn’t have her own subplot to take up even more time, she is paired with Credence, played by Ezra Miller. Speaking of Credence, despite the movie basically surrounding him, it doesn’t exactly handle him the best. He was actually a standout in the first movie, mostly due to Miller’s performance. The Crimes of Grindelwald really needed more of him and really explore him but however that’s not what happens. Despite his whole ‘arc’ being about him trying to find out who he is, he feels more like a plot device and not a character at all, going through the motions because that’s what the plot requires. Definitely the most disappointing of the characters in this movie.

David Yates directs The Crimes of Grindelwald, and once again he does a good job. There’s nothing really wrong with his direction but it would be nice to have some new person taking over, with a more fresh direction. He’s directed all the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts movies since Order of the Phoenix and I think Yates may have relaxed a little too much into his direction of these movies. Again though, nothing really wrong direction-wise. The only direction that was out of place was in Newt’s first scene which for some reason used a lot of POV shots for him and I don’t know why, it was a little distracting. It’s not a dealbreaker, just out of place. The production design and costumes are once again fantastic, the scenes at Hogwarts are particularly a highlight and it feels great to revisit it, even if we aren’t there for long or very often. The CGI on the whole was great, slightly improved over the first movie. The magical sequences are really great to watch, the highlights being the opening scene and the third act. Despite the movie being more Grindelwald focussed, we still get to see a lot of magical creatures through Newt and once again they are great. James Newton Howard’s score as in the first movie was fantastic, it really fits in well with this series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is really unexpected in many ways. It has some really good performances, a plot that keeps you invested throughout (at least it did for me) and some really great sequences. At the same time, it is overstuffed with too many characters, too many subplots and has some very questionable decisions. As it stands at the moment, I think I like The Crimes of Grindelwald a little more than the first movie because of what the story is about and some of the moments of the movie, even though the first is considerably less messy. Honestly, I can’t tell what you’ll think about the movie. I’d say that if you’re not a die hard Harry Potter fan you might not enjoy it as much, but I already can tell that this movie is going to divide the fandom, it’s going to be pretty much the Alien Covenant for the Harry Potter series. If you like Harry Potter, watch it and see for yourself, because I can’t tell whether you’ll like it or not. I’m still on board for the 3 remaining movies but I really do hope that J.K. Rowling pulls it off, because The Crimes of Grindelwald does make me a little concerned about whether she’ll be able to do that.