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Cruella (2021) Review

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Cruella

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Stone as Estella Miller/Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita “Tattletale” Darling
Mark Strong as John
Director: Craig Gillespie

Estella (Emma Stone) is a young and clever grifter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves (Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser) who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.

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Cruella was a movie I wasn’t entirely excited for in the lead up to its release. While I haven’t seen all the live action Disney remakes, generally they’ve felt rather average and not that impressive. However there were a few reasons I was slightly interested for Cruella. One was the cast, which included Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. There is also the fact that it’s an origin story for Cruella de Vil, which although potentially unnecessary, does mean that it’s probably going to do more than just be a repeat of the animated movie’s story beats. Also the trailers looked decent, and hinted at being more than just a replication of the animated movie. Cruella actually surprised me quite a bit and I liked it.

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Cruella was 2 hours and 14 minutes long, despite the fact that the movie is very fast paced, and I was entertained throughout. The plot is rather predictable and familiar (not necessarily in terms of it being a Disney movie), but nonetheless I was interested to see where it would go. Throughout when you’re watching the movie, you might be wondering how this version of Cruella de Vil is supposed to link up with the versions of Cruella de Vil that we are more familiar with. I get the feeling however that this is actually a reimagining of the character, and if that’s the case then I’m entirely on board with that. Even by the end, she’s more of an anti-hero than a full on villain. One way where the two versions of Cruella differ is with regard to the dogs, you don’t need to worry about seeing any puppy/dog killing because there’s none here. There’s even two dogs who are with Estalla/Cruella and the thieves she’s teamed up with, so it is definitely taking a different approach to the character. It is an origin story for Cruella de Vil, and while it does seem a bit unnecessary to bolt a tragic backstory and try to force it in, I was surprisingly rather engaged. One of the things that emerged online about the movie as soon as it came out was a particular moment involving dalmatians in the first 20 minutes, and yes it is rather ridiculous and forced. However it actually works alright in the movie itself, partly because of the tone. Throughout. it does have a rather campy tone, so some of the sillier aspects and issues seem to work alright here, including a flawed story and cheesy dialogue. I’m not certain that I’ve watched the original 101 Dalmatians movie but there were some moments that referred to that film, and they were quite on the nose. It was almost like the filmmakers were contractually obliged to include them. However there weren’t as many of those moments as I thought they would be, nor did they take away from the rest of the story. I feel like by it being an origin story, it actually had freedom to be its own movie (a crime comedy) rather than being restricted to just repeating story beats from a pre-existing film. For those interested, there’s a mid credits scene which hints towards a sequel.

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The cast were among the strongest parts of the movie. First of all is Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella de Vil, who turned out to be a surprisingly great casting choice. Stone humanises her and adds so much to the character, while giving a larger than life performance and is clearly having a great time in the role. Even if you don’t like the rest of the movie, I do think Cruella is worth watching for her alone. There’s also Emma Thompson as The Baroness, and her character does seem very similar to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. However it actually sort of works for this movie, and Thompson is great as the film’s scene chewing and hateable villain. The back and forth between her and Stone is very enjoyable to watch. Also really good are Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as the thieves that are teamed up with Estella/Cruella, and the three play off each other very well. Hauser particularly stands out, especially with his perfect line delivery and comedic timing.

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Cruella also benefits a lot from the energised direction of Craig Gillespie. Performances aside, the stylistic direction elevates the script immensely. The setting of 70s London is beautifully filmed with gorgeous cinematography and has well detailed set designs, it lends itself well to the fashion, music and grimy aesthetic. The wardrobe is fantastic as to be expected, the costumes are absolutely extravagant, and the visual style really showed them off well. The score from Nicholas Britell (who also composed Succession, Vice, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The King and more) is amazing as to be expected from him, and really adds a lot to the film. The soundtrack has a great lineup of songs, even if many of them feel very on the nose and there are too many needle drop moments. On a technical level, really the only aspect that isn’t so great is the CGI, especially the effects used for the dogs.

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One could argue that Cruella is an unnecessary movie, and in a way it is. However I can’t deny that I was enjoying it throughout. The plot is not the best but did enough to have me actually interested to see how things would progress, it’s directed with a very distinct style, and the performances were all great, especially Emma Stone as the titular character. There’s a sequel in talks, and while I’m not sure how it would be possible, I’m not against it. Even if you aren’t such a big fan of the recent live action Disney remakes, I think Cruella is worth checking out.

Men in Black International (2019) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science fiction themes & violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Henry/Agent H
Tessa Thompson as Molly Wright/Agent M
Kumail Nanjiani as Pawny (voice)
Liam Neeson as High T
Rafe Spall as Agent C
Rebecca Ferguson as Riza Stavros
Laurent and Larry Bourgeois as The Twins
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Director: F. Gary Gray

The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep everyone safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) join forces — an unlikely pairing that just might work. When aliens that can take the form of any human arrive on Earth, H and M embark on a globe-trotting adventure to save the agency — and ultimately the world — from their mischievous plans.

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Men in Black International was a movie I was cautiously optimistic about. The idea of making a Men in Black movie and not having the iconic duo of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith seemed like a disaster. With that said, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth were the leads, and they seemed to be a good pairing, especially as the two have worked together before. Additionally, the movie has Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson and more. On top of that, at least it was expanding on the Men in Black universe instead of flat out being a remake/reboot of the original movie. Even though the trailers looked a little generic and familiar, I was willing to give it a chance. Men in Black International is one of those movies that’s incredibly just above average in just about every aspect. There’s not a lot here that’s actually bad, but there’s not a lot here that’s good either.

The plot is reasonably easy to follow but you’re not really invested in it, or its characters despite their performances. It doesn’t even necessarily feel like a Men in Black movie, more like a modern blockbuster with a Men in Black skin. Much of the writing and especially the humour certainly feels like it’s from a passable sci-fi flick released today. As for the humour, it isn’t embarrassingly bad, but more often than not it misses than actually hits. It starts off a little rough too, jumping back a couple years for a scene with Chris Hemsworth and Liam Neeson, jumping back even further with Tessa Thompson’s character as a child, before then jumping back to the present. Then there’s the whole bit about Thompson finding the MIB and somehow convincing them to make her an agent which I didn’t completely buy. After that point the movie picks up a little. There’s also a twist that happened, and somehow I managed to figure it out months ago before learning that the movie actually had a twist at all. By the time the first act is over, it’s incredibly obvious what it is, it’s honestly kind of embarrassing how easy it is to figure it out. It’s not necessarily a major issue, but it goes to show how familiar the plot is. In terms of what it actually adds to the Men in Black universe, it’s in a new setting, and I guess you get some new gadgets/weapons in a couple scenes. However, it honestly feels like they did the bare minimum with the plot, kind of a wasted opportunity.

Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are the leads, and while they don’t rival Smith and Jones they are charismatic and likable, and among the better aspects of the movie. They really end up carrying much of the movie. Other cast members like Kumail Nanjiani (voicing an alien), Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson (reprising her role from the last movie), Rafe Spall and Rebecca Ferguson do alright in their roles. The villains aren’t really bad but nothing memorable either. Also I should probably mention that there’s no cameo from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, so don’t wait through the credits expecting a scene with them, because that doesn’t happen.

After the opening credits and the movie starts, you can definitely tell this movie was not made by original Men in Black director Barry Sonnefeld. International is directed more as a much more modern and conventional action movie. F. Gary Gray directed The Italian Job remake, Law Abiding Citizen, Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious, and now it’s him who’s directing this movie. He’s a pretty good director and to be fair his work on Men in Black International isn’t necessarily bad, but it lacks style and personality. The visual effects are pretty good, again typical blockbuster effects but better than those in the previous movies. The alien designs are fine but at the same time they’re a little basic. There’s very little that’s impressive, just reasonably competent.

Men in Black International is just okay. Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth and the rest of the cast are pretty good, and the visual effects and action is decent, but outside of that there’s not much to really say about the movie. The plot is fine, the direction is fine, it’s competently made, it’s rather forgettable, and there are very little surprises. It’s a reasonably entertaining 2 hours of your time but nothing more than that. If you’re a fan of the movies, then maybe it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect a lot going in.

Men in Black 3 (2013) Review

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III/Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin as Kevin Brown/Agent K
Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal
Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin
Emma Thompson and Alice Eve as Agent O
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Even though agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been protecting the Earth from alien scum for many years, J still does not know much about his gruff partner. However, J soon gets an unexpected chance to find out what makes K tick when an alien criminal called Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes, goes back to 1969, and kills K. With the fate of the planet at stake, J goes back in time and teams up with K’s younger self (Josh Brolin) to put things right.

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The idea of Men in Black 3 leading up to its release didn’t look that good. It’s a movie released 11 years after to a sequel that didn’t hold a candle to the original classic, and the plot involves time travel. It’s really the sequel that no one wanted, and on paper sounded like a complete dud. However, Men in Black 3 somehow was actually pretty good, definitely much better than 2 and was quite a bit of fun for what it was.

Men in Black (or at least the 3 movies) heavily relies on the two leads being J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones). The second Men in Black even brought back K (despite being mind-wiped at the end of the first movie). The third movie is about J being paired up with a younger version of K. It’s at least trying something different, with the whole time travel aspect, and so doesn’t fall into falling into familiar territory like the second movie did. With this being a time travel movie, there might be some plot aspects that don’t always work perfectly, but there’s nothing too major that breaks the movie or anything. Generally the movie or plot is nothing special, but is still entertaining, and still feels like a Men in Black movie. They even managed to add a little bit of emotion towards the end, and tied the whole trilogy together quite well.

Whereas the lead roles of the Men in Black movies are split over two characters, Will Smith is the clear cut lead here and is just as good he was in the previous movies. Tommy Lee Jones only gets a little bit of screentime, it feels like he’s mainly here to contrast with his present day version, but the use of him was fitting. More screentime is given to the younger version of K, played by Josh Brolin, who is perfect at a younger, less grumpy and generally happier version of him. It definitely makes the dynamic between the two very fresh, especially as J is constantly surprised how different and similar the younger K is to the older version. Its really uncanny how well Brolin does his impression, and was definitely one of the highlights of the movie. Jermaine Clement is the villain of the movie, and works well enough for the movie, has a pretty good opening scene. Nothing too memorable but he hams it up appropriately without going way too goofy like the villain in Men in Black 2.

Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct, and once again it still feels like a Men in Black movie. It’s 11 years later and the effects don’t look that much better than those in the original Men in Black movie (however a lot better than the second movie). With that said the action scenes are a lot better than those in the previous movies.

Men in Black 3 was quite the surprise, not yet on the level of the first movie but still an entertaining watch nonetheless. Even if you don’t like the second movie, if you liked the first movie, MIB 3 is definitely worth giving a chance. While it didn’t seem to announce itself as such, it does work as the end of the trilogy. Now we’ll just have to see if the Men in Black spinoffs actually work without the pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Review

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and fantasy horror.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Julie Walters as Molly Weasley
Director: David Yates

Now in his fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) learns that many in the wizarding community do not know the truth of his encounter with Lord Voldemort. Cornelius Fudge, minister of Magic, appoints his toady, Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, for he fears that professor Dumbledore will take his job. But her teaching is deficient and her methods, cruel, so Harry prepares a group of students to defend the school against a rising tide of evil.

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After Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the next film in the series would have yet another different director, that being David Yates, who would of course go on to direct all the future Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies. Order of the Phoenix does suffer by having a lot of cuts to the story and not having enough of the story from the book, but the movie is nonetheless very solid and rather underrated (at least to me). It’s has some truly great moments, and it does successfully pull off adapting the longest book into one of the shortest movies.

Tonally, this film does feel brighter than the past two movies but it does signify that some things are in the process of changing in the world. Now I hadn’t read Order in the Phoenix for a long time but it’s well known that it’s the longest book in the series, and so there’s no doubt a ton of things that were cut, and you can really feel it watching the movie. It does have one of the problems that Goblet of Fire has, that being that some story points, character depth and development is seemingly not in the movie, and it would’ve really improved this film. There are also some parts which are only shown briefly which it would’ve been nice to go into a little more. The biggest example is that Harry training Dumbledore’s Army is like shown in 2 montages, they are effective in the movie and get the point across, but nonetheless it would’ve been nice to explore it a little more. With that said, the movie does have some effective scenes, an example being the scenes between Harry and Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), which are among the best scenes of the film. Compared to most of the Harry Potter movies, it’s not as long, so another 10 minutes (or maybe a little more) might’ve added to the story a bit. Order of the Phoenix would’ve always had this problem as a movie though, with it being the longest story in the book series, really the only way to encapsulate the stories from the books is to make it a tv series, so credit to the directors is due for trying their best. Thankfully though, unlike Goblet of Fire, the movie doesn’t extend or add a bunch of pointless things to the movie (or at the very least I didn’t notice it). The opening moments of Order of the Phoenix is a little clunky, with it being quite possibly having the worst opening scenes of the movies. The Dursleys are more the top than usual, the dementors had a jarring downgrade in design, it introduces characters that don’t get any development whatsoever, and is just really rushed. After the first 15-20 minutes, things improve from there though. The movie is just under 2 hours and 20 minutes long, making it the second shortest of the Harry Potter movies and while I did wish it was a little longer so that we could’ve gotten more of the plot and characters, it never felt overlong and the pace was always consistent (even if it did at times rush through some things).

Acting is quite good all around. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are great and all get to do stuff in the movie. Daniel Radcliffe as Harry is particularly great, delivering his strongest performance in the series up to this point, Harry goes through some character development so Radcliffe gets a lot to do here. The returning cast are great as well. Gary Oldman is once again fantastic as Sirius Black, he and Radcliffe share some great scenes together. Though some characters like Mad Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson) are a little underutilised, they are still good in their roles. Michael Gambon with Order of the Phoenix starts to really fully settle into the role of Dumbledore, still different from Richard Harris’s but works nonetheless. Ralph Fiennes as usual is great as Voldemort, he’s not in the movie a lot (mostly just in the third act) but he’s a constant screen presence from start to finish, even when he’s not on screen. There are some good additions to the movie, I liked the casting choices, but some got to do more than others. Out of all the scene stealers in this movie, the most prominent one is Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge, the character was even more hated than Voldemort and Staunton absolutely kills this role, bringing this loathed character to the big screen. She’s essentially the main villain for most of the movie, she is such a big screen presence and invokes such a response from audiences. Pretty much everything about her character in this movie they nailed. Also a new great addition was Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, who throws herself completely into her insane role. You mostly just see her in the third act, but she makes a great impression.

Director David Yates takes over as the next Harry Potter director, and he was a good pick. So much so that he was given pretty much the rest of the Harry Potter movies and the entirety of the Fantastic Beasts series to direct. The movie does have a good look to it, the production design, the visuals and the whole look of the world is really good. You do get to see quite a lot more magic in this story and it was done really well. This is the first Harry Potter movie where we really get to see Wizard Duels in all of their glory, and it was shown very well. The third act particularly has a ton of magic and battles (Dumbledore vs Voldemort was especially a highlight) and it’s really great to see. One minor thing that stands out is the look of the Dementors early in the movie, who look like skeletons with a bit of cloth and aren’t as effective as the Dementors in Prisoner of Azkaban and look rather goofy instead. Granted they are on screen for less than a minute. The score by Nicholas Hooper is also pretty good.

Order of the Phoenix starts off quite clunky but it really does improve over time and is overall a solid Harry Potter movie. It’s biggest issue is that it is missing some things from the book that would’ve improved the plot had they been included them. With that said, it’s also got a lot of great things, with wizard duels, not feeling overlong and having some really great scenes. I also feel like with Order of the Phoenix, the series got the right setup, tone and portrayal of the world right, which is probably why Warner Bros decided to stick with David Yates to direct all the Harry Potter/Wizarding World movies.

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018) Review

Time: 89 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Rowan Atkinson as Johnny English
Olga Kurylenko as Ophelia
Ben Miller as Angus Bough
Adam James as Pegasus
Emma Thompson as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Pippa Bennett-Warner as Lesley
Jake Lacy as Jason
Director: David Kerr

The new adventure begins when a cyberattack reveals the identities of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives headfirst into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

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It’s been so long since I’ve watched the first two Johnny English movies. They aren’t by any means great comedies but they were comedies that I found funny nonetheless. Johnny English is pretty much to Britain what Maxwell Smart is to America and Inspector Clouseau is to France. Now finally the third movie has come, 7 years after the second movie, which came 8 years after the first movie (never understood the big gap between the movies). Johnny English Strikes Again does pretty much the same thing as the first two movies and if you’re on board with them, you’ll be on board with this movie as well, I certainly was.

If you’ve watched any of the Johnny English movies, you know exactly what kind of movie you’ll be getting with the third movie. It’s full of slapstick humour and the “dumb guy who’s somehow ends up saving the day, often accidently” kind of humour (it’s probably called something else much more eloquent) and it once again works well here (at least for me it did). Johnny English 3 has a lot of jokes that you’d expect, not really doing anything you haven’t seen before. There are often times where you can easily identify the setups and payoffs, you can tell whenever English is going to mess up hilariously or something of the sort. It isn’t an unpredictable comedy, not particularly well written or smart. However, a lot of comedies aren’t well written or smart and yet this one can succeed when others really don’t. I had a good time with it but it’s not very memorable. Nonetheless I had an entertaining time watching it. This movie is less than an hour and 30 minutes long and that was honestly the right length for the movie, it doesn’t ever feel like it’s going to be too long.

Rowan Atkinson once again really shines in this movie as Johnny English, he hasn’t lost the energy that he displayed in the previous movies. He is by far the best part of the movie, and I think that even people who don’t like this movie can at least give credit to him for putting absolutely everything into his comedic delivery and performance. The rest of the cast do fine enough, with Olga Kurylenko, Ben Miller, Emma Thompson and others doing well in their roles. However, it is clear that Johnny English Strikes Again is really Atkinson’s show.

The direction by David Kerr was reasonably okay, for a comedy it serves it’s purpose well enough. The CGI can be pretty cheap a lot of the time, most of the time though the movie doesn’t really need to use much of it, so it’s a pretty small complaint to be had.

If you liked the other Johnny English movies, you’re going to like the 3rd one. If you don’t like them, stay away from this movie because you’ll just dislike it just as much (if not more). If you haven’t seen any of them, watch the original Johnny English, and see how you feel about it. As someone who likes the previous movies however, I really enjoyed it. No, it’s not special or very memorable compared to some other comedies but it keeps everything simple enough, and it is funny from start to finish.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Scary scenes and mild language.
Cast:
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter
Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley
Emma Watson as Hermione Granger
Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid
Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore
Richard Griffiths as Vernon Dursley
Gary Oldman as Sirius Black
Alan Rickman as Severus Snape
Fiona Shaw as Petunia Dursley
Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall
Timothy Spall as Peter Pettigrew
David Thewlis as Remus Lupin
Emma Thompson as Sybill Trelawney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) third year at Hogwarts starts off badly when he learns deranged killer Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison and is bent on murdering the teenage wizard. While Hermione’s (Emma Watson) cat torments Ron’s (Rupert Grint) sickly rat, causing a rift among the trio, a swarm of nasty Dementors is sent to protect the school from Black. A mysterious new teacher helps Harry learn to defend himself, but what is his secret tie to Sirius Black?

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Interestingly, Prisoner of Azkaban for most of the general audience is the best Harry Potter movie. I knew though that a lot of die hard Harry Potter fans had some mixed feelings about the movie. As I hadn’t watched the movie recently and in a while, I was curious to see what my opinion of the movie would be. I’m glad to say that I lean on the side that considers Prisoner of Azkaban to be one of the best Harry Potter movies, with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction playing a big part in this.

If I had to guess one of the main reasons why this movie stuck particularly with the general audience more than the other Harry Potter movies, it might have to do with the fact that the story is much more personal for Harry and didn’t clearly feel like it was setting up for later movies. It’s like the only Harry Potter film to not have Voldemort to deal directly with the plot (outside of maybe Half Blood Prince). There are some differences from the books, most of them didn’t bother me too much and worked okay enough for a movie (such as Harry learning the spell Expecto Patronium really quickly) as opposed to the book where it took a long time. Some of the differences, particularly with how the spells work, are a little distracting. For example, Expecto Patronium here is not quite like it was in the book, and Expelliarmus here seemed to be used as both a disarming spell and a stunning spell. There are also some bits from the book that would’ve been nice to see in the movie. The humour in this movie worked really well, while the previous movies had some hit or miss humour, all of it works here. Prisoner of Azkaban is shorter than the previous two Harry Potter movies at 2 hours and 20 minutes long and is really paced well, even better paced than Philosopher’s Stone. You never feel bored, and you can’t pick out really a scene that could’ve or should’ve been removed for time or for the benefit of the story. Almost everything in here is needed.

There isn’t really any problems with the younger cast acting from this point forward with the films. Once again the friendship between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) is even stronger. Radcliffe particularly gets a lot to do, especially in the second half. I mentioned in my Chamber of Secrets review that Ron Weasley comes across as being a little useless and underused at times, and the same goes for Prisoner of Azkaban, particularly in the third act (then again it was in the novel as well). The rest of the returning is once again good as well, particularly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape and Maggie Smith and Minerva McGonagall. Most of the new additions really worked. David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher (the best in Harry’s period at Hogwarts), was a perfect casting decision, I can’t see anyone else in the role (I’m so glad Thewlis got this role instead of Professor Quirrell in Philosopher’s Stone). Gary Oldman works really well as Sirius Black, once again he transforms completely into his role. Conveying a lot of craziness, yet also completely convincing as the true character that’s revealed later on, Oldman is absolutely fantastic as usual. Timothy Spall was also perfect for his role that’s revealed later in the movie. One new cast addition was for the role of Albus Dumbledore, as Richard Harris died between the second and third films. Michael Gambon takes on the role now and while I’m aware there are mixed feelings about him, I think he’s fine here. He’s not quite fitted into the role of Dumbledore yet but he works fine, even if he does feel like he’s trying to act like Richard Harris. At least he fares better here than he does in Goblet of Fire. Other additions like Emma Thompson as Professor Trelawny were good as well.

Alfonso Cuarón’s direction is jarringly different from Chris Columbus’s, however considering the massive tonal differences that the later stories would have and seeing how they have changed, I can say that the changes was worth it and I’m glad that it happened in this movie before it was too late in the series. His direction of the movie is probably why so many people love this movie so much over the others, and for good reason. The way everything looks, his storytelling, pretty much everything works excellently. His attention to detail was great, particularly with Hermione and her use of the time turner. The cinematography by Michael Seresin was fantastic, it really looks great. When it comes to visuals, this is probably the first of the Harry Potter’s to have effects that actually still do hold up really well. Certain magical things like the Marauder’s Map particularly looked really nice on screen. Of course there are some moments where you can tell would need a green screen or something to be completely created in CGI and then you can really identify the green screen and tell that the CGI/magical object isn’t actually there, but nothing more than that. The look of the Dementors are great, shadowy, dark and really effective, I’m not sure why their design changed in Order of the Phoenix. This film has some truly magical and wonderful sequences, such as the flight(s) of the hippogriff Buckbeak and Harry facing off against the dementors. There are some weird looking sequences though, like the Knight Bus moment, where they seemed to up the insanity for a little bit, I guess that’s what they were going for but it did feel out of place. The production design was once again really great. I will say however that with this movie following the previous two, I can’t tell what year this takes place in. In fact one of the biggest problems with the Harry Potter movies is the time period is never locked down. It’s a slight distraction but doesn’t negatively affect the movies too much. Also whereas the first two movies had the main character wearing robes pretty much all the time, here they start wearing more casual clothes and this would become more prevalent over time as the movies would continue, I think it works for the movie but again it can be a jarring difference. Every director also keeps changing what Hogwarts looks like and again, jarring but you get over it. The score by John Williams is also great, in fact some of the best themes in the Harry Potter movies were introduced/featured in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Before re-watching Prisoner of Azkaban recently, I wasn’t sure where I would rank it among the Harry Potter movies, but now I think it’s at the very least among the best in the movies. The great pacing, the storytelling, the acting but most of all Alfonso Cuarón’s excellent direction, makes this a really great film. I can definitely see now why so many people consider it to be the best film in the entire series.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Watson as Belle
Dan Stevens as The Prince/Beast
Luke Evans as Gaston
Kevin Kline as Maurice
Josh Gad as LeFou
Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza
Ian McKellen as Cogsworth
Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts
Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette
Director: Bill Condon

Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

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Although Beauty and the Beast was on my most anticipated films of 2017 list, it was a movie I was feeling mixed about. It had a lot of potential with it having a good cast. At the same time though, it’s yet another live action adaptation of a Disney movie, which feels like just another cash grab. Overall that’s pretty much what this movie is, it’s not necessarily a bad movie though. On the contrary actually, it’s a pretty decent movie. The acting and most of the execution worked really well. However some of the directional decisions made were rather questionable and took me out of the movie.

The story was good overall, I had no real problems with it. With that said, from what I can tell, this story follows the original story quite closely. So, I don’t take much issue with the story itself, it was some of the decisions made in delivering that story that I felt a little mixed about. I personally liked the second act the most (though again that’s most likely due to the directional decisions being the best).

The acting was generally good all around. Emma Watson did a pretty good job as Belle, I still saw her as Hermoine Granger as Belle, but she did well in her role. Dan Stevens was also really good. Most of the time he is under a lot of makeup and costume but yet is able to convey emotion underneath all that. Luke Evans was great as Gaston, it was a larger than life performance, it was very over the top, which it did take me out of the movie. But from what I can tell it is still less over the top than other versions of Gaston. I will say that Evans fully embraced the role. The standouts to me were Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan, they were voicing Lumiere and Cogsworth respectively and were quite entertaining.

I like most of the directional decisions made. The effects involving the Beast were very effective, I’m not sure how they did it, but they managed to make it so that Stevens could be able to express his emotions through it. The costume design was great overall. The CGI was effective for the most part, although some of the CGI in the last act was a little fake. I liked most of the musical number. Despite many of the directional decisions I liked, there were some very over the top elements that took me out of the movie, such as the opening Belle song and the last act. Now I haven’t seen the original film, so I can’t tell if some of the decisions were to pay homage to the original film. But either way with some I just couldn’t get into it.

Beauty and the Beast was a pretty good movie overall, with the acting and most of the directional decisions made being decent. I did however have a lot of issues with some of the directional ideas chosen, these ideas really took me out of the movie. As I said, it was not necessary for this movie to exist, it’s yet another okay enough live action Disney adaptation. But despite it being unnecessary, I still think that overall I think it’s a decent movie and if you are a fan of the original film and are interested in seeing this version, see it. You’ll most likely like it a lot.