Month: November 2016
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, directed by David Yates, is the first film in a new series that plans to bring the people back into the wizarding world of Harry Potter. It is 1926, and one Newt Scamander comes to New York for a stopover. He has just finished finding and documenting exotic creatures of the wizarding world, and everything would’ve gone smoothly, had a normal Muggle, a.k.a. No-Maj, not accidentally took his briefcase which just so happened to contain his beasts, and whose discovery may spell trouble for both the wizarding and Muggle world.
As usual, I shall start with where I stand in terms of source material familiarity.
I guess I am in the category of the “Harry Potter fan”. I’ve read all the books and watched all the movies, and while I am not as crazy as some hardcore fans, I know my Harry Potter. Like, I knew who Newt Scamander was before the movie was announced.
But since it’s been 5 years since Deathly Hallows Part 2 ended the series, I like to believe that I entered this relatively bias-less, and uh…the end product…leaves something to be desired.
Oh, and one last thing, I’ll be going into spoiler territory for this one, so reader beware.
With that said, let’s start.
This movie…has problems. Lots of them. Very protruding ones. But before I delve into negativity, let’s talk about the good things first. Get them out of the way.
It felt great to go back into the world of Harry Potter again, even though Voldemort and the Boy Who Lived was still a generation away. I loved hearing the iconic theme in the beginning, and I loved seeing the spells coming out of wands again, the magic and all that. And as a fan of the Roaring 20’s myself, the few times Mr. Yates really basks in that era, with the nightclubs and the clothing and the general atmosphere, I too thoroughly allowed myself to indulge.
Also, Dan Fogler as the Muggle-yes I’m calling them Muggles not No-Majs’ that’s what I grew up with-Jacob Kowalski whom unwillingly is hurled into the wizarding world was easily the best character of the movie. By far. He serves as the audience’s proxy, his face a constant one of shock and awe, and I loved every minute of him. He was funny, he was likable, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up at the end of his story-arc. I don’t know if he’s returning for the sequels, but I sincerely hope he does.
And also, I actually really bought the villain. No, not Colin Farrell, and not the other guy, but Samantha Morton as Mary Lou, basically the wizard’s version of the KKK/Nazis. I dug her because, if a wizarding world actually existed, there probably would be some people who would be like that. It was refreshing to see a very much human villain after the whole magic-ness of You Know Who.
And lastly, the titular beasts are great when they’re on screen. I absolutely loved the designs, and I really want to see more of them after the movie was over.
Shame they’re only in like half the movie.
Now we come to the problems. Where to start…
…okay, since I ended with my appreciation for a character in the last paragraph, I’ll start with my “eh” of another character here. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander is fine. The problem here is not the actor nor the character. It’s the character’s story. He does not go through any arc, remains pretty much the same throughout, and in the end feels very much to be desired. His reason for coming to New York is glazed over, and in fact, almost every introduction to our new characters feel half-assed. It’s just like “boom, there they are”. No explanation or anything before they start their adventure. Granted, they explain it later on, but by then you’re already more “oh” than “ooooh”, and the magic is gone.
And speaking of lame character introductions…hello Johnny Depp. Okay, it’s not the twist that Graves was Grindelwald in disguise that made me go “what”, it’s the fact that they built up the twist so badly. Literally, the only time Grindelwald is talked about is in the beginning of some newspapers flying past, and literally one or two lines. That is it. And those happen rather early on in the movie, so by the time the twist occurs, you’ve long forgotten about him. Now I had the privilege of knowing who Grindelwald was before watching, but I can only imagine the sheer confusion of seeing Colin Farrell turn to Johnny Depp in the ending fight, not helped by the fact that Farrell had actually built quite a presence, while Depp had no presence what-so-ever. Maybe he’ll actually be awesome in the coming movies, but here, he’s lame.
Oh, and Katherine Waterson is some witch who was fired from the U.S.’s version of the Ministry of Magic. I don’t have much to say about her, because neither does the movie. She’s just there, helping Newt and Jacob. Oh, and her sister’s telepathic.
Now that was the main complaint, so from here on out things might seem nit-picky, but just stick with me. There’s no weight to the plot, the location and settings, for the most part, dull and unimaginative, and by god, some of the CGI is just lazy. There’s one scene especially, near the end, when a deus-ex-machina solves everything, Newt pats a huge bird creature on the neck. It is so blatantly CGI is amazing. His hand doesn’t cast a shadow on the bird! Fucking werewolf Lupin from Prisoner of Azkaban felt more real, and that was over a decade ago!
…but I digress. I can ignore that kind of CGI, as long as the monsters themselves were cool, and they were, but man…that one shot…you’ll know it when you see it.
Okay, in conclusion, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is mediocre, and I hate saying that because I love the world of Harry Potter, and I want to be amazed by it again. But no, there was only a little bit of it here, and that’s probably nostalgia talking. A resounding “eh” from me.
The Nice Guys, directed by Shane Black, is a comedy neo-noir film starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as an unlikely pair set in the backdrop of 1970’s Los Angeles. Ryan Gosling is Holland March, a down-on-his-lucking private eye living with his daughter Holly, played by Angourie Rice, and is investigating the case of a murdered porn star. Russell Crowe is Jackson Healy, a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living. Fate binds them both when a young woman named Amelia disappears. Holland had a lead that Amelia was somehow involved with the murder, and Amelia had hired Jackson to keep him away from her. They decide to band together to get to the bottom of this, and go down a road of corruption and conspiracy. Oh, and porn.
This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. Two very charismatic actors, set in the most drug-fueled days of America, led by Shane Black, the guy who wrote the script for Lethal Weapon? Heck yeah.
And so I went in, watched the movie, came out, and am very glad to say that yeah, this movie was fun as hell.
Alright. First off, the tone. I don’t know if this was just this movie or if this is a Shane Black thing, but the humor in this movie was blunt crass-ness mixed with the Russell’s badassery and Ryan’s whimpers. I think I should say that when I mean crass, I don’t mean like “teen comedy shit/piss/jizz/sex joke” crass, I mean “fuck/shit/Jesus-fucking-Christ exclamation” crass. This was a legit buddy comedy movie, straight outta the 1980’s. And why wouldn’t it, considering Mr. Black’s record. I genuinely had a great time in the theater. The movie was really pretty funny. There were a lot of moments where I did laugh out loud and had a great time. Seeing Ryan Gosling being this low-life jackass was hilarious. It’s Inherent Vice meets Lethal Weapon, and I couldn’t be more happy for it.
The cast is excellent. Like I said, Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play of each other wonderfully, with Russell being the straight man and Ryan being the idiotic asshole. There’s Angourgie Rice, who’s spectacular at being the little kid whom simultaneously is both childlike and mature. I swear, hearing a kid swear never gets old. I don’t think there’s a single bad performance at all.
However, as much as the characters behind the story are likable to watch and enjoyable to be with, it’s the plot that stops this move from being something really special. At first, it basks in the culture of the 1970’s, taking jokes and making fun of the time. The smog problem, the thriving porn industry, the disco, all of that, but as the film progress, that sorta takes a backseat to the “plot twist” of the movie. I won’t spoil it for you guys, but I think that it, while plot-wise made some sense, made the movie eat more than it could chew. It became too big for itself. Perhaps if they did one more re-write of the script it would flow better.
But hey, at least we got an in-joke about Detroit.
So yeah, overall, this film was great fun. I had a blast, and I heartily recommend it to everywhere who has a fleeting interest in it. It wasn’t this perfect film I thought it would be, but I was smiling when I left the cinema, so I think it did its job well enough.