The Crimes of Grindelwald

grimes

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the book, was not a property that I thought could be adapted. It had no plot after all. It sounded like someone was attempting to adapt Encyclopedia Britannica. But with JK Rowling herself writing the scipt and Harry Potter veteran David Yates at the helm, we got a surprisingly interesting romp through the magical streets of 1920s New York. Newt Scamander wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but together with the side characters the film had a good emotional core.

The mouthful of a sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), was in theory the much easier ask. The world is by now incredibly familiar to much of the movie-going population, and the new characters established. Hell, even the story itself was somewhat known. Grindelwald has been lurking in the background for over a decade, ever since we learnt about him in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. There is a curiosity about his motivations and methods. That is what frustrates me most about the film. It has everything I could ever want in a Grindelwald story in theory, yet it whizzes about in a weird way, paying fan service not to the series we love, but to the one movie that was ok.

So, let me explain what should have been.

Spoilers below.

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TV: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Kiernan Shipka in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

Nickelodeon’s programming shaped much of my childhood, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch was probably one of my favourites. The new incarnation of Sabrina on Netflix borrows much more from the current trend of gothic teenage dramas like Riverdale, The Vampire Diaries, and countless others by this point. It’s a beautifully produced, creepy/fun show. Some of the characters are delightful.

The Spellman sisters (Miranda Otto and Lucy Davies) and their niece Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) prepare for her dark baptism into the Church of the Night. This is proper New England witch craft, with witches’ marks, familiars, and the goat-headed devil. The witches receive “delicious” gifts from the Dark Lord in return for signing their name in the Book of the Beast. A reference to the fantastic movie The Witch (2015), perhaps?

Spoilers ahead for the first five episodes.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi

jediWe waited until Boxing Day to see The Last Jedi, but long before that I had heard – or rather felt – disturbing rumours. I’ve yet to read other reviews, so I am still not quite sure what people are all up in arms about. This review might not touch on any of the so-called “issues” people had with the film. I can see that some might find a few things hard to swallow, but this review has a lot of stuff to talk about, so I’ll save the in-depth discussion of Luke for another time. Let’s get into it.

SPOILERS DOWN BELOW

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword review

arthurThere are some stories that we will never stop telling. The recent round of these stories, be it fairytales, legends or classic books, seem to lean towards the “darker and grittier” aesthetic. A lot of people complain that this is unnecessary; that it leaves the characters one dimensional, and makes the ridiculous aspects of fantasy worlds all the more obvious and harder to swallow. But there are good things to say about this “genre” of remake. For one, it occacionally looks totally badass. It also, when done right, allows otherwise “silly” aspects of stories to be reworked, which can be a good stepping stone to more nuanced versions of those stories.

The gritty remake of King Arthur was King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen as the legendary king. It did not add much to the Arthurian legend, and only stands out in my mind due to the uproar over Keira Knightly’s photoshopped bosom on the poster. It’s a bit of an odd relic today, full of actors who would become better known later, for better or worse.

Guy Ritchie’s take on the well-known story is full of grittiness – silent screams, washed out colours, deep drumming music. In the hands of any other director it might have come out as “Batman in the 12th century”, but Ritchie has his own aesthetic, one that clashes head first into the dark fantasy version of Camelot. If you don’t like Guy Ritchie, you won’t like this film. It has all his hallmarks: parallell story, hard to follow narrators, hand held running, slow-motion, and cheeky banter. But does it lean too much in either direction? Would the story have been better served if it layed on more dark grit, or more lock stock?

Spoilers ahead.

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Beauty and the Beast Review

beautyI’m tempted to bastardise Dickens for my own amusement, so here it goes: all Disney-haters hate Disney in the same way, all Disney-lovers love Disney each in their own way. We all have our favourites, we all prefer one technique over another, some languages over others. I can swallow Hakuna Matata in Norwegian, but don’t you dare show me The Little Mermaid in my native tongue. I love Sleeping Beauty for its art, Tangled for its feel-goodness, The Hunchback of Notre Dame for its score, and Hercules for James Woods alone.

The new live-action Disney classics are very difficult to review without these childhood emotions colouring everything. It is therefore much easier to simply lay all those biases out, and see the movie as it is: an adaptation, from animation to live-action. In my humble opinion, I think Beauty and the Beast (2017) improves on the original in many ways.

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Dr. Strange review

strangeA photographic memory, a complicated personality, 177A Blecker street, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Which genius literary hero am I speaking of? It’s Dr. Steven Strange, the charming, flirtatious, magical doctor, played, as the universe dictates, by the equally charming Mr. Cumberbatch.

Marvel continues to stretch their opening logo-time with each success, showing off the status of their brand. They have every reason to gloat, and Dr. Strange does nothing to change that. But, does it enhance the brand? Does it lie in that good second-tier Marvel shelf, along with Ant-Man and Thor, or does it stretch up to that top shelf to be remembered among the Guardians, Winter Soldier and Thor (I’m conflicted, ok?). Read below to get my take on the shelving of Dr. Strange.

SPOILERS BELOW

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Pan review

Pan (2015) is the live action prequel to the classic story of Peter Pan. As usual, I begin with disclaimers. As a kid, I was never a fan of the Disney version. I never liked the animation or characters. But a few years later the magnificent Hook came out and I loved it. It made me understand why Peter Pan was a classic character, and also gave me a version I could enjoy. The live action remake, Peter Pan (2003), was serviceable, mostly due to Jason Isaacs. So when Pan was announced I was intrigued. I’m always open to reimaginings. But on the other hand, the trailer did not fill me with confidence and sometimes (coughstarwarsprequelcough) filling in backstory can be detrimental to a character’s mystique. 

This review contains some spoilers.

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