movies

HBO’s “Fahrenheit 451” is All Smoke, No Flame

mv5bzmm1zgjkzdgtnzblns00yjkyltk3ngetztixmgvkmtk2yjg1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu-_v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Where there’s smoke, there is often flame. Unfortunately, HBO’s new adaptation of the classic novel, Fahrenheit 451, is all smoke and no flame. Adapted by Amir Nader and Ramin Bahrani, from the original novel by Ray Bradbury, and directed by Ramin Bahrani, Fahrenheit 451 is this weird mixture of being a modern adaptation and an original story featuring a few of the characters from the book.

Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon star in Fahrenheit 451. Directed by Ramin Bahrani and written by Bahrani and Amir Naderi, the film is a modern adaption of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel. It depicts a future where the media is an opiate, history is rewritten and “firemen” burn books. Jordan plays Montag, a young fireman who struggles with his role as law enforcer as he battles his mentor, fire captain Beatty, played by Shannon. Sofia Boutella also stars as Clarisse, an informant caught between the competing interests of Montag and Beatty. Other cast members include YouTube star Lilly Singh, who plays a tabloid reporter named Raven, tasked with spreading propaganda and broadcasting the firemens’ book-burning raids.

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“The Happytime Murders” Trailer is a Hot Mess

Alongside the release of Deadpool 2, STX Entertainment has released the first trailer for their upcoming adult-oriented puppet-noir film from the Jim Henson Company, The Happytime Murders. Written by Todd Berger and directed by Brian Henson, The Happytime Murders has been advertised as a Muppets version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and had languished in development hell for years before finally being picked up by STX Entertainment. The good news is that there’s finally a trailer and hard proof that this film actually exists. The bad news is that the trailer is a hot mess. Like, it’s a really bad trailer, both in terms of pure entertainment/quality and also being an accurate representation of the film. According to Wikipedia, the plot of the film is as follows:

173811_800x1045In a world where puppets co-exist with humans as second class citizens, Phil Phillips (Bill Barretta), puppet private eye and disgraced ex-cop, is hot on the trail of the serial killer who murdered his brother and is now targeting the cast members of the 1980s television series The Happytime Gang. As the killings continue, Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), Phil’s former flame, is next on the list. It’s up to Phil and Detective Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), his ex-partner, to find the culprit, but as bad blood and old resentments resurface, the clues start pointing to the only viable suspect: Phil himself. Now he’s on the run with only his wits and hard-headed determination as he and his partner attempt to solve the Happytime Murders.

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The New “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” Trailer is All Kinds of Awesome

Warner Brothers just released a trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and it’s all kinds of awesome. It’s been nearly five months since the reveal of the title of the film and that promotional image of the cast, so we’ve all been kind of starved for any real footage or news of the film and this trailer fully delivers. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and is written by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. It follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) as they travel to Paris in order to track down Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) under the request of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law).

CredenceThis trailer does everything a good teaser trailer should do: it teases us. It shows just enough to whet our appetites but not enough to actually ruin the film too much. I really like that the trailer didn’t rely solely on nostalgia. It opened with a nostalgic shot of Hogwarts and featured a lot of Dumbledore, but that was basically where the nostalgia ended. It was a nice way of reminding people who maybe weren’t totally on board with the previous film that this is still part of the Harry Potter universe (now rebranded as the Wizarding World). I also like how colorful this film looks in comparison to the last one. I loved the last movie, but man did it have a pretty bleak color palette. This one seems to have a much brighter and more colorful one, so that’s nice.

dumbledore 2Speaking of Dumbledore, there’s a lot of him in the trailer and Jude Law is absolutely killing it as Dumbledore. It’s gonna take me a bit of time to fully get used to him in the role, but he’s doing a spectacular job. There’s a line he has towards the beginning of the trailer where he says something along the lines of “If you’ve ever had Newt in a class, you know he doesn’t take orders” and it was such a Dumbledore thing to say and it made me smile so much. Interestingly, there’s very little Grindelwald in the trailer. I wonder if it’s to avoid the controversy around Johnny Depp’s casting for a little bit considering how that blew up after he was so prominently featured in the promotional picture from November. There’s about one shot of him in the trailer and he’s nearly unrecognizable. Which is good. If Johnny Depp can stop being Johnny Depp for about three seconds, he could actually deliver an interesting performance. I’d have still preferred just have Colin Farrel as Grindelwald, but such is life.

DYLpLo-W4AAE1KbUltimately, I loved this trailer. It did its job in getting me super excited for the movie. It was well edited and structured, showed off how beautiful the film looks, teased just enough while withholding enough to still be mysterious, and overall just felt magical. It reminded me why I love the Wizarding World franchise so much. For all its hits and misses, it still brings me joy in the way it did when I was a kid. It’s not perfect and the filmmakers often make mistakes and questionable decisions, but I still love it. This trailer reminded me of the best things about the franchise and has successfully gotten me super excited for the next installment.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald lands in theaters on November 16, 2018.

“I, Tonya” is a Tour de Force for Margot Robbie and Allison Janey (Mini-Review)

mv5bmji5mdy1njyzml5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjizndaxndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_I don’t know that I, Tonya (written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie) every fully comes together as a film, but it’s a massively enjoyable two hours, for sure.  It’s mainly due to extraordinary performances from the cast – especially Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding and Allison Janey as her mother, LaVona Golden – that the film ends up being as good as it is. Narratively, it’s a bit all over the place. Both the framing of the story – as though the filmmakers are interviewing the people involved in the plot – and the occasional literal interruption of scenes by the various characters breaking the fourth wall to address the audience are very clever and give the film a sense of humor and narrative thrust the whole film. I wanna be clear that I, Tonya is a very enjoyable film. The actors are great, the dialogue is witty and sharp, the script is often very clever and very funny, and the cinematography is frequently stunning – especially during the scenes reenacting one of Tonya Harding’s figure skating performances.

mv5bnjm5n2y1nzutmju4os00nda3lwfhymytnjrhotq3zjg5njc0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjuwnzk3ndc-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_I just don’t know that the actual plot of the film ever fully comes together. I’m not sure what the movie was trying to say about the whole Nancy Kerrigan incident. I think the film was operating under the assumption that Harding, herself, was mostly innocent, and the whole thing was the fault of her ex-husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan) and his idiot friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser). This thesis would make sense in the context of the film as a frequent, recurring theme is how Tonya never takes responsibility for her own actions. Her poor scores are always someone else’s fault; anytime anything goes wrong, it’s never her fault. So, maybe the film is extending that theme to cover the Nancy Kerrigan incident. It’s not Tonya’s fault that it happened, even though she knew about it. I just don’t think the film really makes that clear. Still, even if the film doesn’t ever completely come together narratively and thematically, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s funny, beautiful to look at, filled with impressive performances from talented actors and actresses, and it’s a good way to spend two hours.

(3.5 out of 5 wands)

The Trailer for “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Does Not Look Promising

Disney and Lucasfilm have released the first trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story and it doesn’t look all that good. It’s kind of a mess, to be honest. Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t feel remotely like Han Solo in this trailer and it’s easily apparent why Disney reportedly had to hire an acting coach for him for this film. The visuals are nice, and Donald Glover as Lando looks like a lot of fun, but otherwise, it just looks kinda meh. Star Wars has gotten great at producing great trailers and mediocre movies and nothing in this trailer gives me the impression that Solo: A Star Wars Story is about to change that. I’m not sure if the film is setting out to be a comedy or an action movie (or both), but if it’s a comedy, it seems even stranger that Lucasfilm fired the original directors of the movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, given their comedic background. I dunno really what to make of this trailer or the movie. The movie utterly failed at piquing my interest or making me excited for the movie. Unless the quality of future trailers increases dramatically, I won’t be seeing this film in theaters.

A more in-depth review of the trailer can be found on my YouTube channel or in the video below:

“Darkest Hour” is a Boring Film Partially Saved by a Stellar Performance from Gary Oldman (Mini-Review)

mv5bmtgwnze3ndcwnf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmji2mzi0ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006971000_al_It’s actually kind of amazing just how boring Darkest Hour (written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Joe Wright) is. It takes over an hour for this film about U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) to actually really get going, and even then it never elevates itself above made-for-tv biopic levels. Gary Oldman is truly stunning as Winston Churchill; he’s nearly unrecognizable! Between the makeup and the clear effort he’s put into not sounding like himself, Oldman completely loses himself in the role of Churchill, and his performance is probably the best part of the film. As I said, the pacing of the film is dreadful. The first hour of the movie moves by at the pace of a snail, doing nothing to really help you connect with any of the characters nor introducing the true central conflict of the film. The only reason the movie even comes close to succeeding is that all of the actors are enormously talented and play well off each other, especially Oldman and anyone who interacts with him.

mv5bmtkwode1mjg0nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwntqzoda1ndm-_v1_sy1000_cr0014991000_al_It’s sad, though, because at the edges of this film is a much more interesting story just itching to be told. Every now and then, the film will cut to one of the two female characters – Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), Churchill’s assistant, and Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas), Churchill’s wife – and explore how Churchill’s actions impact them and the impact they, in turn, have on him. Those elements are the most interesting elements in the film – aside from Oldman’s performance – and a film that explored how the people Churchill surround himself with – men and women – impacted his tenure as Prime Minister, and the decisions he made, would’ve been a far more interesting story than the one we were presented with. As it stands, Darkest Hour is a boring film. It takes forever to get going, and once it does get going, it never amounts to much of anything. It’s mostly competently directed, even featuring some fairly interesting camerawork by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, but Joe Wright’s directing is unable to make up for the sheer dullness of Anthony McCarten’s script. The film is mostly saved by the performances of the actors – chiefly Oldman, James, and Thomas – but even they can’t make this film truly interesting.

2.5 out of 5 wands

“Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery” is a Game Full of Potential that Misses the Mark (Beta-Review)

Screenshot_20180123-181634Portkey Games and Warner Bros. recently released an early access/beta version of the upcoming mobile game Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Set in the decade before Harry Potter attended Hogwarts, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery allows players to create their own characters and experience life as a student at Hogwarts while living their own adventure – featuring a new story set in the universe of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World – and encountering familiar characters along the way, such as Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Bill Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and more. The game is the mobile game equivalent of a touch-and-click adventure where players tap various items on the screen to advance the story forward while collecting experience and other materials all under the confines of an energy meter system.

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“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a Mostly Competent Film that has Nothing to Say About its Subject Matter

mv5bztzjyzu2ntktntdmni00otm0ltg5mdgtngfjogmznjy0mdk5xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtmxodk2otu-_v1_sx675_cr00675999_al_Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – which he wrote and directed – is a film that seems to be about life in small-town America where a woman – Mildred Hayes, played by Frances McDormand – feels that the local police department, led by Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), hasn’t been doing enough to solve the rape and murder of her daughter, so she rents three billboards just outside of town to broadcast a message she hopes will kick the police department into gear. The film explores the fallout from those billboards and how this unsolved murder and how Mildred’s actions affect the town as a whole. The problem with the film, however, is it doesn’t seem to have anything to say about the issue it tackles. The cops are all presented in fairly unsympathetic light throughout the film – and no amount of charming Woody Harrelson performances are able to change that; Mildred Hayes has a complete lack of any kind of a character arc – she starts off the film being angry about the police’s lack of progress and ends the film in pretty much the same spot, having learned no lesson and feeling no remorse for any of the events that have occurred throughout the film that are a direct result of her actions; and even goes so far as to try and get the audience to sympathize and forgive the cop that Sam Rockwell plays – a cop who is incompetent, sexist, and so racist that he actually tortured a person of color who was being held in custody. The film goes so far to try and redeem his character but offers no actual reason for the audience to forgive him. He doesn’t feel any remorse, so why are we supposed to suddenly forgive him just because he overheard something at a bar that caused him to actually to the bare minimum requirements of his job as a policeman? He doesn’t even do those bare minimum requirements well! His redemption arc consists of him mediocrely attempting the bare minimum of a decent cop and I’m supposed to root for him now? It just didn’t sit well with me.

mv5bztvinjq5zwmtyjzhoc00ndc1lwi3ndctnguxmmrimgvhzgnml2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzc2odk1mtg-_v1_sy1000_cr0013511000_al_Three Billboards isn’t a bad movie. It’s fairly funny at times and features a lot of really good performances from some really talented actors. As much as I want Sally Hawkins to win the Oscar for Best Actress, if she has to lose to anyone, Frances McDormand in this film is a good person to lose to. The directing is mostly competent as well and the pacing moves along at a fairly brisk pace. The problem with the film is the script and the poor storytelling it contains within it. Apparently, Martin McDonagh is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter, but having seen nor read anything else that he’s written, I’m confused by that assessment of his talents. He’s a fine director, sure, but in Three Billboards, he doesn’t seem to have anything to say about what he’s chosen to write about and he puts no effort into giving his characters any kind of arc or development. His script fails on almost every level. The film isn’t bad, but it doesn’t deserve the awards it’s getting. Some of the actors do, but the film itself is nowhere near the best film of 2017.

3 out of 5 wands

“Batman: Gotham By Gaslight” is the Best Batman Movie in Years

mv5bytjhnjyymgitoddhoc00ztzmltk1mtmtzdrhmmzkytriogjkxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtg2njyzoa-_v1_It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a remarkably well made Batman film. It’s even more impressive that said amazing film is a straight-to-DVD animated adaptation of a short Elseworlds graphic novel – a series of graphic novels from DC Comics that takes popular characters and places them in new situations/settings/etc. Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, originally written by Brian Augustyn and featuring art from Mike Mignola, placing Bruce Wayne/Batman squarely in the late 1800s in Gotham City, where it seems that the infamous Jack the Ripper has relocated to continue his spree of terror by murdering women. Written by James Krieg and directed by Sam Liu, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight follows the Caped Crusader as he works – from the shadows – to stop Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror before it can get any worse while dodging the ever-suspicious Gotham police. If ever there were a crime from the world’s greatest detective, this would be it. (Mild spoilers follow.)  (more…)

Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” is More Concerned with Praising the Press than Doing its Story Justice (Review)

mv5bmjqymjewotiwnv5bml5banbnxkftztgwotkzntmxndm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_I fully understand and appreciate the message that The Post tries to communicate. In this current political climate, it’s a very important one to support: Freedom of the Press is essential to the health of any democracy. The problem with The Post, however, is that it’s too focused on being an important movie that it doesn’t actually take the time to do the story its telling justice. It spends the whole movie telling us how important the press is but never gets around to actually showing us why the press is important. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, The Post explores the cover-up, revealed by the infamous Pentagon Papers, that spanned four U.S. Presidents and pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher Meryl Streep) and a hard-driving editor (Tom Hanks) to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government. (Mild Spoilers follow)

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