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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 133 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
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone
Samantha Morton as Mary Lou Barebone
Jon Voight as Henry Shaw Sr.
Carmen Ejogo as Seraphina Picquery
Colin Farrell as Percival Graves
Director: David Yates

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

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After re-watching the Harry Potter movies, I was originally just going to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, not re-review it. It’s not like my Batman v Superman or Man of Steel retrospective reviews where I had as massive amount of things still left to say about it, or my Suicide Squad or Spectre retrospective reviews where my opinion had changed drastically from when I wrote the initial reviews. I still like Fantastic Beasts quite a bit, however I think I was a little too favourable towards the movie at the time of its release. Looking back at it now, there are some problems with it, mainly with the story trying to mix two different plotlines together (not entirely successfully). But it still has some good things to it.

J.K. Rowling this time round writes the script herself, and she did a good job. With that said, it could’ve been better. The story isn’t the most interesting but it has some good parts to it. I really liked the decision to be set in the 1920s and in America this time, it’s one of the best things in the movie as we get to see a different side to the wizarding world that we haven’t seen before. It adds some new concepts, creatures, different governments and rules and other related things to the universe, so it’s not just a re-tread of what we already know. On top of that, we get to see adult wizards using magic to their fullest potential, as for as spectacular some of the magic scenes were in the Harry Potter movies, for the most part we only got to see a certain level of magic, especially with our protagonists. Now for the biggest problem that Fantastic Beasts has: it feels like it’s trying to be a different kind of Harry Potter movie focussing on a different character in the wizarding world (Newt Scamander) and while trying to be its own thing while at the same time focussing on a mysterious destructive force (the Obscurial) while world building for sequels involving Grindelwald. The two don’t mix well, especially when one has a whimsical and light hearted tone and the other is a dark political thriller, it’s really jarring. Not only that, but you also have this really dark subplot involving Ezra Miller and child abuse, which doesn’t work at all with the Newt Scamander plot. As for the plots themselves, the Newt Scamander plot wasn’t the most interesting and is quite drawn out but it was fun at times. The other plot involving Grindelwald and the Obscurial is more interesting but it’s the secondary plot and so feels rather limited. I was more of a fan of the Grindelwald plotline anyway, but its clear that one of these plotlines should’ve taken the lead. I will say that although I liked watching it, the first Fantastic Beasts isn’t very memorable.

Eddie Redmayne is perfectly cast as Newt Scamander, his awkwardness and quirks really fits the character well. The rest of the main cast, Katherine Waterson and Alison Sudol as Tina and Queenie Goldstein as well as Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, the muggle, are also quite good (though Sudol gets the least to do as we learn the least about her characters out of the 4). I’m glad that we’ll be getting more of this cast in the sequels. Ezra Miller is good as his character but he’s not given enough to really do, Miller really does elevate his character through his performance though. I’m just glad that he’s in the sequel so he can do more. Jon Voight was fine in the movie but he does feel out of place and unneeded. I really like Colin Farrell and I liked his performance here as Percival Graves, being quite an effective villain. While some didn’t like it, I personally liked the twist with Graves secretly being Gellert Grindelwald. What I don’t like is the fact that Grindelwald would end up being played by Johnny Depp instead. Farrell had the right feel for Grindelwald, the way he carried himself, delivered his lines, all of it was perfect. And we go from a very solid and well tuned performance to one that was much sillier in comparison. In his 30 seconds of screentime, Depp either seemed like one of his characters or a generic cartoonish villain, neither is idea for the role. It doesn’t help that he looks like a Johnny Depp character, with the white hair, the moustache, he just looked really goofy. Even his line deliveries (all 2 of them) were that of a clichéd villain. So a lot of the shock of the twist is undercut by such a poor first impression by Johnny Depp, and ends up being one of the biggest downgrades in movie history. Only time will tell if Depp ends up surprising us all in the role.

David Yates’s direction of the movie is solid once again. The production design is solid, setting things right in the 1920s. The visual effects are great at times, however some of the CGI on the beasts weren’t always the best, even the CGI in some of the older Harry Potter movies looked better. Not only that, the Obscurial as a dark cloudy creature is a little too much of an over the top CGI creature and can look really messy, especially in the third act. The score by James Newton Howard is really effective.

I know that some people really don’t like Fantastic Beasts and I’m aware of its issues. I still like it (granted I’m a tad biased because I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan) but I don’t think it’s great. I think the biggest problem is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a different story following Newt Scamander trying to retrieve some lost creatures or being a political thriller involving an Obscurial and Grindelwald, and world building as well. Fantastic Beasts tries to integrate both of these plotlines and it doesn’t really work, especially when it comes to tone. While I am nervous about the next film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, it seems like the biggest issue in the first movie won’t be present here. From the trailers at least, it seems like it’s focussed up on what it really wants to do, with it leaning much more into the Grindelwald and Dumbledore stuff. I’m still worried about how they’ll get Newt Scamander involved with this plotline, and I’m still very sceptical about Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, but outside of that, I’m excited for the sequel.

Alien Covenant (2017) Review

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language and horror
Cast:
Michael Fassbender as Walter/David
Katherine Waterston as Daniels
Billy Crudup as Christopher Oram
Danny McBride as Tennessee
Demián Bichir as Sergeant Lope
Carmen Ejogo as Karine Oram
Amy Seimetz as Faris
Jussie Smollett as Ricks
Callie Hernandez as Upworth
Nathaniel Dean as Sergeant Hallett
Alexander England as Ankor
Benjamin Rigby as Ledward
Director: Ridley Scott

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.

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Alien Covenant was one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. I am in the minority of people who loved Prometheus and the story it was going for. With Ridley Scott returning to direct the sequel, I had high hopes for Alien Covenant, and it didn’t disappoint. The story as usual was great, the acting was really good, and Ridley Scott as usual delivers at making an intriguing, intense sci fi thriller. What makes it work even better than Prometheus though is that it makes the story even more interesting and engaging, while adding some of the horror elements, which didn’t detract from the interesting story.

This film is a mix of Prometheus and Alien. Don’t go in expecting a full on Alien movie, go into it expecting a Prometheus sequel. With that said, there are many ties to the Xenomorphs, and you get to see more of them here than we did with Prometheus. The film does take its time to explore thematic elements (exploring ideas such as creation and A.I.), but it also has the suspense and horror element from Alien. This movie’s story is better than Prometheus’s, it delivers an interesting story but it’s a lot more engaging and fascinating, the movie on a whole is a lot more entertaining too. The characters themselves aren’t spectacular (aside from Fassbender’s David) but they are better than Prometheus’s characters. Part of that is due to the fact that they felt more believable and more like real people and while they do make some dumb decisions (like the characters from the first movie), here it is believable that they would make them, because of the situations that they are placed in. As for the ending… I’m intrigued to see where the franchise goes from here. If there’s any problem I can possibly find, I guess while I like the third act, the tones did clash just a little bit, especially with the action scenes. But even then it’s not a huge flaw.

The acting was all around really great from a large cast which includes Katherine Waterson and Billy Crudup. A stand out amongst these actors is Danny McBride who was surprisingly great in his role. The stand out performance from this movie however is Michael Fassbender, in dual roles as Walter (the Covenant’s android) and David (from Prometheus). He does well particularly acting across from himself, in fact these interactions and conversations are some of the best scenes in the entire film. He is especially great as David, that character is so well written and performed, at this point he’s one of the best characters in the entire Alien/Prometheus universe. That’s all I’ll say about him, I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Fassbender might be one of the best parts of this whole movie, and that’s saying a lot, because there’s a lot of great things here.

This film a lot of the time felt like Alien, the opening titles for Covenant was very much like the opening titles for Alien, even the score by Jed Kurzel is literally Jerry Goldsmith’s Alien soundtrack at times. While it’s not necessarily essential for the film to have it (and I’m not really sure why they had it), I really liked it. This movie is beautiful, with the cinematography, production design, the CGI, everything about this movie is gorgeous. The Xenomorphs themselves, I won’t go into detail about them, but I’ll say that they are handled so great. Yes, they are computer generated but they don’t feel fake at any point. This movie is very intense, Ridley Scott really nailed the horror aspect excellently here, and when this movie is violent, it is really violent.

Alien Covenant is a great film overall, it continues on the story from Prometheus and improves upon it in almost every way. I won’t give away a lot about this movie, just know what you are getting into, it’s a Prometheus sequel with Alien elements, which is better than the original. I’m pretty sure that no matter your thoughts on Prometheus, you’ll like Covenant a lot more. I am curious about where Ridley Scott is going to be taking this series. I am a little concerned that it could get repetitive (Alien, Prometheus and Alien Covenant have all had the scenario of people visiting a planet and aliens attacking and killing them), I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I trust Scott. Prometheus was great, and Covenant was even better. I can’t wait to see what Ridley Scott has planned.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Review

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Time: 132 minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein
Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski
Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein
Colin Farrell as Percival Graves
Carmen Ejogo as Seraphina Picquery
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone
Samantha Morton as Mary Lou Barebone
Ron Perlman as Gnarlack
Jon Voight as Henry Shaw Sr.
Director: David Yates

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

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Fantastic Beasts was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. I love the Harry Potter books and movies, so naturally I was interested in seeing what these new films would hold. Despite this, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this prequel, it’s exploring a new side to the Wizarding World, with new characters and I didn’t know what direction it would go in. However, after seeing it, I can say that I absolutely love Fantastic Beasts. It had me interested in the plot from start to finish, the world is interesting, the acting was great, the effects were fantastic and it fits perfectly into the Harry Potter universe.

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There have been many cases where great writers fail at writing a good screenplay (The Counsellor). That’s not the case with JK Rowling, who writes the script to Fantastic Beasts, the script is fantastic. I was invested in this movie from start to finish. One of the best parts of this movie is how, even though it’s establishing the world and setting up for future movies, it stands on its own. The tone was handled really well, it is light at times, but it would also get quite dark in others, overall it was well balanced. I will say that I was more invested in the story involving Ezra Miller’s and Colin Farrell’s characters more than the main plot with Newt Scamander trying to find his creatures, but it may just be a personal preference thing.

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Eddie Redmayne in a scene from, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. via AP)

The cast is very talented and the film makes use of each actor quite well. Eddie Redmayne is really good as Newt Scamander, his quirkiness really worked in this role. Katherine Waterson and Alison Sudol were also great in the movie. Out of the main four stars however, Dan Fogler stood out most to me, he was fantastic in this movie. It would be so easy for this character to feel like a drag and annoying as he really is the exposition character, he’s the character that the other characters speak to in order to inform the audience what’s going on. However, he was just so likable and fun to watch. He and two other actors stole the show, one of these other actors is Ezra Miller, without spoiling anything about his role I have to say that he is absolutely excellent in this movie. The other showstealer is Colin Farrell, again no spoilers, but he was so great in this movie, I do wish that he was in the movie more but he really made an impression in the scenes he had.

(L-r) COLIN FARRELL as Graves and EZRA MILLER as Credence in a scene from Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. HANDOUT Photo by Jaap Buitendijk, Warner Bros. [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

David Yates has directed some of my favourite films of the Harry Potter series and returned to direct this movie, and he didn’t disappoint. The special effects are naturally great. The magical creatures themselves are so creative and done very well. The action scenes as to be expected are also done fantastically. The setting is very interesting and unique and the excellent production design reflected that. The soundtrack by James Newton Howard was also fantastic, and was well suited for the movie.

media1Fantastic Beasts is truly a great movie. Its talented cast was great, the world was so excellently portrayed by JK Rowling, and the direction was truly great. There’s not a whole lot of problems that I have with the movie. I do have some concerns about the sequels, as I’m not exactly sure how this storyline will be able to fit Newt Scamander into the story (without spoiling anything) but I’m sure it’ll be done well. JK Rowling knows what she’s doing, so I’m sure the next films will be great. Definitely check out this movie when you can.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014) Review

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The Purge Anarchy

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, Offensive Language and Content that May Disturb.
Cast:
Frank Grillo as Sergeant
Carmen Ejogo as Eva Sanchez
Zach Gilford as Shane
Kiele Sanchez as Liz
Michael K. Williams as Carmelo Johns
Director: James DeMonaco

One night per year, the government sanctions a 12-hour period in which citizens can commit any crime they wish — including murder — without fear of punishment or imprisonment. Leo (Frank Grillo), a sergeant who lost his son, plans a vigilante mission of revenge during the mayhem. However, instead of a death-dealing avenger, he becomes the unexpected protector of four innocent strangers who desperately need his help if they are to survive the night.

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If you’ve ready my review of 2013’s The Purge, you know that I wasn’t a big fan of it. It took a potentially fun and unique (if a little far-fetched) concept and tried too hard to make it realistic and serious that it becomes somehow both boring and ridiculous. So naturally I wasn’t looking forward to the sequel. But to my surprise I enjoyed it quite a bit, The Purge Anarchy was everything I wanted the first movie to be. The entertaining action scenes and chaotic nature of the whole film was just fun for me. I’m not sure if I can call this a good movie, but it’s a decent and enjoyable one at the very least, and that’s already a big step forward when compared to the previous film.

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This movies does consist of the main characters going from one place to another and action happening during them. The pacing unlike the previous movie is pretty fast, making the movie much more entertaining. There are thankfully less moments of people telling the audience that The Purge works. The whole concept of The Purge still doesn’t entirely make sense but since the film doesn’t spend much time trying to justify it, I was fine with it. The characterisation of this movie aside from Frank Grillo’s character wasn’t good. It was about as poorly done as the original movie. However this movie is a lot more entertaining and fast paced, so I was able to forgive this movie for that, as the characters weren’t really the main focus. Besides, Grillo’s character was actually quite well written.

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Most of the actors are fine in this movie but as I said the characterisation is quite poor, and so they don’t have much to work with. Honestly they don’t really leave an impression on you, they are just random throwaway characters. The one actor who does shine though is Frank Grillo, who steals this entire movie. It helps that he has the best writing but Frank Grillo does bring something special to this movie and is so committed to his role, I’m so glad he’s returning for the sequel. Without him this movie would not be as enjoyable as it was.

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The action is very fast, bloody, violent and just overall entertaining. Although it does feature many masked killers, the film is much less horror themed than in the previous movie, which was a relief. I do notice that whenever people try to kill the main characters, random civilians come out of nowhere and are killed by said people, probably to make up for the lack of kills. I’m fine with that, but it would probably raise the stakes more if they occasionally killed off some of the main characters.

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With entertaining action scenes, a unique concept being taken advantage of well and a show stealing Frank Grillo, The Purge Anarchy is really fun. If you didn’t like the original Purge, give this one a chance. It’s not a great movie but it’s a lot more self-aware of what it’s supposed to be, and I think that’s the main difference between the two films. With last instalment of The Purge trilogy titled Election Day coming out this year, I just hope that it takes lessons from this movie and knows what direction to go in.