Fantastic Beasts The Crimes Of Grindelwald: J.K Rowling Is No Screen Writer

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, breaks out of prison and begins his reign of terror.

There is just so much wrong with this film. There are far, far too many characters for a start most of them do nothing and add very little to the film existing either as background colour or to advance one very specific plot point before fading into obscurity.

Eddie Redmayne’s Newt is again not needed here, really what these films should have been is firmly centred around a young Dumbledore and telling the tale of his love affair and eventually war with Grindelwald, there was no need to make these films about the beasts other than to sell toys. Newt could be removed entirely from this film and very little would change one way or the other.

I thought both Jude Law as Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as Grindelwald gave good performances and tried desperately to inject this film with some life and substance, sadly it was all too little too late.

Overall, there is no reason for this film to exist, it tells a tale that doesn’t really need to be told with about one hundred characters too many.

Pros.

Law

Depp

Cons.

Redmayne

It is too long

There are too many needless side characters

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Doctor Strange Into The Multiverse Of Madness: You Better Have Watched All The Disney + Shows

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Following on from the events of Wandavision Wanda, played by Elizabeth Olsen, goes on a multiverse wide rampage to try and get her kids back, forcing Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and other mystical characters to try and stop her.

I think this may be my favourite Marvel film to date, or certainly up there in the top 3, I really enjoyed the Raimi elements to this film and I thought the horror sequences were terrific. I liked that this film felt a little darker and more supernatural than the rest of the MCU it gives me hope for characters like Blade and Ghost Rider. I thought the Raimi esque shot choices and transitions were just superb, it really gave this film a sense of identity all its own.

Moreover, despite some of the more unrefined criticism of this film saying how they turned Wanda into a bad guy, I thought this film did great things for her character and felt like a natural carry over from where the end of Wandavision left her. In the comics the character is deeply mentally unstable and crazy powerful this felt a true reflection of that, this idea that Wanda is a superhero and that she is a force for good only, is both not true and also just a creation of the MCU- one they now seem to be breaking.

I thought the new character of America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez was great she easily held her own both with Strange and Cumberbatch and I eagerly await to see what else they do with her character, most likely a Young Avengers show or film. In that same vein, I thought this film added a lot to most of the characters from the previous Doctor Strange film that helped to make them feel more rounded. I liked Strange and Wong’s, played by Benedict Wong, relationship and how Strange eventually comes to respect Wong as the new Sorcerer Supreme and also thought the film did justice to Rachel McAdams’ Christine from the first film, tying that up nicely.     

The things I didn’t like about this film were all quite minor, firstly I didn’t like the Illuminati I thought it felt far too much like blatant fan service and thought there was no point to them existing other than to give Wanda people to tear apart. I did like the Black Bolt, played by Anson Mount, death however, I thought that was gutsy and some nice unexpected gore. Secondly, I have issues with the post credits scenes, with the first I think it is too unclear what is going on, moreover unless you are an avid comics reader you will not know who Clea, played by Charlize Theron, is and will be left baffled. The second post credits scene is just annoying and makes you feel like you have wasted your time. Thirdly, I didn’t like Strange’s relationship with Baron Mordo, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, it felt very much like some scenes were missing there as there relationship made no sense being where it was based off the ending of the previous film.

Overall, I think this film is brave, brutal and great for the MCU. I hope very much they can talk Raimi into coming back to do more movies.

Pros.

The horror elements and the Raimi feel of the film

Wanda’s progression

Strange and Christine and Strange and Wong

America Chavez

The ending

Cons.

Too many cameos

Uneven storytelling with Mordo  

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Doctor Strange: A New Advance In Faith Healing

3.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

World famous surgeon Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, becomes a master of the mystic arts after suffering injuries in a car accident.

I think this is one of the slower MCU films but there is still a lot to enjoy here.

The world and characters are all interesting, Tilda Swinton is great as the Ancient One and Benedict Wong gives us a first fun look at Wong. However, I would say the opening of the film and Strange’s training takes far too much of the film, it feels as though you have been watching for quite a while before anything large scale happens.

Once we start getting the big magical set pieces and everything starts to look at bit more like Inception things pick up. I would say this film does enough visually to allow it to stand apart from a lot of the other Marvel films. I thought the big final battle against Dormammu in the time-loop was a lot of fun and quite inventive, sadly the other battle against Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecillius was far less interesting and Kaecillius on the whole was quite wasted.

I go back and forth about how I feel about Christine Palmer, played by Rachel McAdams, on the one hand I think her and Cumberbatch have great chemistry together and there scenes do have a nice amount of energy, but on the other hand I do wish that they would have given her more to do or at least allowed her to tag along for more of the craziness rather than just staying at the hospital.

Overall, a serviceable to good Marvel film but one that does let down a few of its key characters.

Pros.

Cumberbatch

The time-loop sequence

Swinton and Wong

McAdams has good chemistry with Cumberbatch

Cons.

McAdams isn’t given enough to do

Kaecillius is wasted

The training takes far too long       

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Fantastic Beasts The Secrets Of Dumbledore: Surprisingly Progressive For Hollywood

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A love story between two wizards, wherein the drama is turned up to the maximum.

I will preface this review by saying that I did not want to see this film, I have issues with the removal of Johnny Depp and the casting of Ezra Miller, however, a friend of mine bought us tickets to see it and really wanted me to go so out of a sense of obligation I went. I want to put my bias right up front there.

However, despite going in expecting the worst the film was actually not bad. I was impressed with the romantic intimacy WB gave Dumbledore, played by Jude Law, and Grindelwald, played by Mads Mikkelsen, in that they felt like a real couple. Rather than just force in a same sex kiss for the sake of appearing progressive this film actually built the characters and went for it.

Again I think this film owes a lot to Law and Mikkelsen, with both adding a lot to the project. In the case of the former he brings an easy charm to proceedings but also a dramatic weight when required, and in the case of the latter he brings a strong villainous presence as well as the petulance of someone broken hearted and looking to spite their ex.

I think where the film falls down is once again in the fantastic beasts department. Newt, played by Eddie Redmayne is again fine, but nothing more than that and he basically acts as a passenger within his own film. Moreover, the magical creatures felt quite redundant to this film for the most part with the only exception to this being a few scenes towards the end wherein they are forced in for plot reasons.

In addition, I did not like how kill happy this film was with its magical creatures. They are CGI I know, but some of the scenes especially early on in the film wherein creatures are killed in quite graphic ways on screen just feels needless and done to try and appear edgy.

Overall, not as bad as I was expecting but certainly not great either.

Pros.

Committing to the Dumbledore Grindelwald relationship

Folger

The sense of scope and adventure

Cons.

The graphic creature death

Redmayne

It doesn’t need to exist and doesn’t justify itself      

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The Rings Of Power: The Question Of 21st Century Fantasy

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Several old faces from Carly’s past return in an effort to end her web show.

My, my how do you go from a first episode that by all accounts was very good and pushed the show as a whole forward to this? Quite frankly, this second episode might be one of the worst of the revival.

The most egregious thing is just how badly this episode wants to milk nostalgia, bringing back all of these old familiar faces to try and sue Carly, played by Miranda Cosgrove, thereby forcing in member berries in a way that couldn’t be more blatant. The court trial simply serves as a means to be like oh remember this person from this episode? Remember?

Moreover, this is only added to by the worst ending of an episode of iCarly possibly ever, whereby when it looks like Carly might have to face some consequences for her past misdeeds Spencer, played by Jerry Trainor, just buys her way out. The reason why this sucks is because it could have been an actual emotional moment which could have led to some character development for Carly or at the very least a shift in perspective, but no.

Additionally, this episode forces in a Harper, played by Laci Mosley, and Millicent, played by Jaidyn Triplett, side-plot that is the definition of time wasting. It goes nowhere and undoes a lot of the great Harper work the first episode does, reducing her back into the loud, obnoxious stereotype.

Overall, a sorry state of an episode made worse by the fact it followed such a good one.

Pros.

A few funny jokes

It is watchable

Cons.

The nostalgia baiting

The terrible ending and message of it

Reducing Harper back into a stereotype

Seemingly doing it best to stop any kind of character development

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The Kid Who Would Be King: The School Play Version Of King Arthur

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new retelling of the King Arthur legend.

I am very mixed on this one, on one hand I enjoyed that it felt like a fresh take on the King Arthur legend apart from all the other adaptions of the story, it also had an incredibly distinct British charm and sensibility to it that I thought added a lot to the film. Moreover, it featured Patrick Stewart and I find it hard to not like something with Stewart in it.

However, on the other hand this film lacked any fun or imagination it needed to really come to life. There are some sections in the film that feel imaginative and well-executed perhaps even Harry Potter esque, but then they end and the film replaces them with a long drawn out beige scene in which the film progresses but doesn’t make you feel anything whilst doing so.

Additionally, what may be the greatest crime of this film is that it wastes Rebecca Ferguson in a villain role wherein she is given nothing to do and is kept off-screen for most of the film. This is an incredibly baffling decision as Ferguson is an incredibly strong performer so by not including her the film shoots itself in the foot.

Overall, it has potential but does nothing with it.

Pros.

The British feel to the film

A number of imaginative scenes

Patrick Stewart

Cons.

It doesn’t execute on its potential

It splits into dull

It wastes Rebecca Ferguson

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The Witcher Season Two: The Grey Tide Of Netflix’s Efforts Into Fantasy, How Not To Adapt.

Written by Luke Barnes

In a break from my reviewing tradition I want to take a minute today to talk about season two of the Witcher on Netflix, and why I couldn’t make it to the end of it despite being a fan of the books and the games.

So straight off the bat we have to debate whether this show even is the Witcher, like it is called that and has characters which bare the same names as those who appear in the books and the games but in most other ways it is devoid of the wider franchise and feels far closer to generic fantasy. Whether it is the fact that show choose to cut out so, so much from the books or the fact it changes so much of what it does keep there is just something about this show that just doesn’t feel like the Witcher to me.

Clearly this show is hell bent on appealing to the Twitter brigade, we all know who I am talking about, they have race swapped a number of key characters and are constantly queer baiting a relationship between Geralt, played by Henry Cavil, and Jaskier, played by Joey Batey. I am surprised more people aren’t annoyed about the queer baiting on this show as it is quite obviously leading to nothing and is a poor stand in for any real LGBTQ+ representation on the show. Moreover, the race swaps could have been used well, maybe even played some sort of role in the new story the show wants to tell, but no, they were done for no reason other than for the people behind the show to preach about how diverse their cast is. Yikes.

In addition, the effects are often quite poor, yes every now and again they get one sequence where the effects come together well but more often then not it doesn’t work. This might sound bias against Netflix, which is humorous as many people have called me a Netflix shill in the past, but there is a hue of their trademark cheapness to this show that really shows up more often than it should.

The scene that finally killed this show for me was when Eskel, played by Basil Eidenbenz, was turned into a monster and killed just for the random shock value of it despite only just being introduced and being important in the wider lore. They could have handled this scene in any number of better ways but they did it to prove their independence from the successful books the show is based on and show how there is no element of Sapkowski’s universe that this show won’t ruin.

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The Last Witch Hunter: Diesel’s Greatest Performance Was Convincing Us He Was Into Fantasy

1/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Vin Diesel tries desperately to set up a new franchise so that when the Fast And The Furious ends he still gets some acting roles.

Deary me, what went wrong here?

I think this might have been the most miscast Diesel has ever been, I know he says that he is into dungeons and dragons and role play and all of that but his love for the fantasy genre does not come out here, he is just playing the same character he always does…. Himself.

The only reason this film gets a 1 from me is because of Rose Leslie, she tries hard and it is sad that her career never took off after Game Of Thrones in the same way other people’s did. Ultimately though with a lead as flat as Diesel this film was never going anywhere and it is a shame she hitched herself to it.

Moreover, I understand that the budget for this film was a little on the lower side for a ‘blockbuster’, but what was with the terrible special effects? Honestly they were some of the worst effects I have seen in a long while.

Overall, this film makes Gods Of Egypt look good.

Pros

Leslie

Cons.

Diesel can’t act

The special effects are god awful

It has horrible pacing

It feels very bland   

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Turning Red: No One Fears This Hormone Monster

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young girl, voiced by Rosalie Chiang, confronts her coming womanhood through the form of an ancient curse that turns her into a giant red panda.

I will admit this film was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. In many ways I was expecting something more akin to Wish Dragon, a blatant effort to pander to the Chinese box office with a sprinkling of pro party propaganda forced in, usually as a means to secure a release. However, this film stayed well clear of that and instead stuck to what Pixar do well telling stories about parent-child strife and familial disfunction.

I thought the narrative and message of this film was beautiful, the notion of embracing change and your coming hormones whilst also trying to do right by those you love was conveyed in such an expert way that it would be impossible for you to feel nothing at it. Furthermore, I think it is highly commendable that this film tackled coming of age issues that are often not talked about, especially not in animation, I think it is vital we see more films like this that approach the same old story structures but from different, less-covered, points of view.

My only issue with this film is that there are a few lines that feel quite cringe, these are particularly present in Mei’s, voiced by Chiang, introductory scene. This came off to me as an ageing writers room struggling to write for a youthful modernish voice, luckily as the film goes on this becomes less of an issue.

Overall, a sweet film that reminds us all of the power of Pixar.

Pros.

The message

The emotion

The coming of age journey

The characters

Cons.

A few cringe lines early in the film

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The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey: Greed Is Not Limited To Dragons

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The Lord Of The Ring’s disappointing cousin.

As some of you may know The Lord Of The Rings is one of my favourite trilogies ever, so much so that I may never review them: as even the concept of having to think critically about something I care so deeply about seems hard. However, the Hobbit and it’s various sequels are fair game.

Like many people when I watched An Unexpected Journey in the cinema for the first time I was mixed, and then in the short term afterwards I grew more negative towards the film. However, with time I found within me a fondness for this trilogy so I decided to go back to it, and after all these years I can honestly say that this film was okay, not great, not terrible.

This film has a lot going for it Tolkien’s fantastic world, strong source material and a good cast with the likes of Martin Freeman, Aiden Turner and Richard Armitage and for the most part these factors stop the film from being awful and even create positive feelings towards the Hobbit trilogy, then you get to the ending and yeah…….. Then you remember why everyone dislikes the Hobbit films.

The rather obvious issue with these films as many have pointed out in the past is the pacing. Now I have nothing against the long run times of these films, but I do take umbrage when I feel the audience is being exploited, as in to take a short story contained within one book and then turning it into three films. When we reach the end of the film and realise that we aren’t even going to see Smaug basically at all, it feels as though you have been cheated. It feels like a smack in the face and an executive laughing at you saying, ‘oh better come back for the sequel’.

This clear mentality is what I think really harms this film and its sequels.   

Overall, exploitative but not without promise.

Pros.

The cast

The world

There is fun to be had

Cons.

The pacing

The unmistakable feeling of corporate greed

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