Film Review: Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

HO00005124-lgFantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald

Release date: 16th November 2018

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz

Runtime: 134 minutes

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the anticipated sequel 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Following the events of the first film, Credence is looking for his birth family in Paris, and Albus Dumbledore sends Newt Scamander to find him. Meanwhile, dark wizard Grindelwald is also seeking Credence.

Having loved the first film in this spin-off series, I couldn’t wait to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. While I absolutely loved the film and was not disappointed, I can’t help but feel it could have been even better.

This film takes places primarily in Paris, and falls short on the high standard set by the setting of New York in the first film. 20s New York really came to life in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but the sequel took surprisingly little advantage of the potential Paris had to be an equally dynamic setting. There were a couple of moments where I got a sense the characters were in France, but for much of it they could have been just about anywhere. Since the first film set such a high standard, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the filmmakers didn’t utilise the Parisian setting more.

There are a lot of plot strands in this film, and I feel like I need to watch it again to completely grasp everything that happened. There are many new characters, a lot of new backstory to get your head around, and some surprising twists that throw up more questions than answers. At times the plot felt a little meandering, without an obvious end goal beyond finding Credence. This film, which we must remember is part of a whole being only the second in the series, seemed to set up a lot for the future films.

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Film Review: Tomb Raider

tomb-raider-poster-alicia-vikanderFilm Review: Tomb Raider

Release date: 15th March 2018

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film franchise, loosely based on the reboot of the video game. This vision of Tomb Raider is a little different from the Angelina Jolie films you may be familiar with. Alicia Vikander portrays a young Lara Croft, unable to accept her father’s death, and living away from Croft Manor. In search of her father, she journeys to a remote island off the coast of Japan where he had been looking for the tomb of Himiko. Alicia Vikander does a great job playing Lara, but there are few other substantial performances to make the film come alive.

Those who have played the 2013 game will recognise some similarities here, but the film is quite loosely inspired by the game rather than being an adaptation of it. Some things are familiar like Lara’s bow and arrow, the climbing axe and some of the action sequences, for example when she is washed down the river. Otherwise, the film takes quite a different story to the game.

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Film Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

HO00005086Film Review: Star Wars – The Last Jedi

Release date: 14th December 2017

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson

Runtime: 152 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

Fans have been divided over this film, but I have to say I loved it. No, it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a little different from other Star Wars films. Yes, that is a good thing from my point of view! I’ve liked (to varying degrees) all of the films. I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens, but it did recycle major plot elements from the original trilogy too much. It didn’t stand on its own two feet. This film did.

It was rather long. It did feel a little episodic, almost like a TV series squished into a film. However, that didn’t really bother me. I just enjoyed the story. There were a lot of twists and turns and although some parts were a little predictable, there were parts that I didn’t see coming and broke from the mould, which I really liked about this film.

Visually and musically it’s stunning yet again. The soundtrack of John Williams is part of what really makes these movies great for me. Some interesting new worlds were explored in this film which made for some new captivating visuals and designs.

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Film Review: Wonder Woman

wonder-woman-final-posterFilm Review: Wonder Woman

Release date: 1st June 2017

Director: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright

Runtime: 141 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure, Historical

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Prior to its release, Wonder Woman was a highly anticipated female-led and female-directed superhero movie. I had my doubts, since films don’t often live up to their hype. Man of Steel, which I liked, is the only other DC film I’ve seen, and since many of their films have flopped and had negative reviews, I was a little apprehensive. In this case, I was thrilled it met expectations.

Wonder Woman follows Diana of the Amazons, who chooses to leave her paradise home and join the war to end all wars when an American pilot (played by Chris Pine) crashes on the island. I knew nothing about the Wonder Woman comics before I saw the film and didn’t realise the background to the character is of Ancient Greek mythology. As mythology has always been an interest of mine this was a pleasant surprise.

Gal Gadot does an excellent job of playing Diana, and it’s refreshing to see a new face playing a lead superhero role. The other cast members also played their characters well and side characters had personalities rather than being cardboard two-dimensional afterthoughts. There are some good touches of humour throughout which also adds to the likeability of the characters.

The cinematography is stunning. All of the fight sequences were well thought out and choreographed. As I watched, I couldn’t help but marvel at the stunning way these sequences had been filmed, capturing such detail in fast paced action scenes. At the climax, the film took a different direction than I was expecting, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which made for a thrilling final conflict. It did slide into clichéd sentiments towards the end, but it didn’t prevent the ending from being satisfying. The film was perhaps a little too long, with small scenes that could have been cut down a little to give a better flow to the movie.

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

ho00004330Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Release date: 28th April 2017

Director: James Gunn

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell

Runtime: 136 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the follow up to the highly successful first film in the franchise. The first film provided great music, quirky characters and bucketfuls of fun adventure. In some ways, the sequel can’t live up to the first film for me, but it is equally enjoyable. This time, the group has found friendship together, but the cracks are beginning to show and while the first film brought the characters together, this film shows them having to overcome their differences to realise the importance of their friendship. The main plot centres on discovering Peter Quill’s parentage, which I won’t say anything more about to avoid spoilers.

Most of the humour was amusing, although there were a couple of places where it felt too forced or overdone. Baby Groot provided both cuteness and humour, but while still having character and not being reduced to a comic twig. None of the new characters stood out especially, it was still the returning characters from the first film which I liked the best. It was good to see more of Karen Gillan’s Nebula, and this second film explored the sibling relationship between Nebula and Gamora much more, giving more insight into their past and complex relationship.

The design of the whole film was once again excellent. There are some beautiful set pieces which are so creative and made great viewing on the big screen. As well as the visuals, the action was also good, with tension filled action sequences.

The only problem is it seemed to be trying too hard to live up to expectations. They threw so much at it that at times it missed a beat. However, on the whole it was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable, and that was my overall impression after exiting the cinema.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

 

mv5bmtyymtcxnzc5m15bml5banbnxkftztgwotg2ode2mti-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean Salazar’s Revenge

Release date: 25th May 2017

Director: Joachim Rřnning, Espen Sandberg

Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites

Runtime: 129 minutes

Genre: Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is the fifth film in the franchise and an attempt at rebooting the series. Notably, they’ve decided to call it ‘Salazar’s Revenge’ here in the UK instead of ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ for no apparent reason. It would be far less confusing if they just gave films and books the same names. I prefer ‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’ and since this is a line in the film it fits much better. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, who once again has an undead seaman seeking revenge upon him. Sound familiar? Javier Bardem plays the undead Spanish captain who wants to destroy all pirates. Jack joins with astronomer Carina and a sailor, Henry, to find the Trident of Poseidon.

The film features some memorable and bizarre scenes that are familiar in style and comedy to fans of the franchise. Geoffrey Rush returns as Barbosa and once again plays a great double-crossing pirate alongside Captain Jack. Kaya Scodelario did an excellent job playing the intelligent Carina, providing a strong female character whose superior knowledge regularly results in confusion from the bumbling pirates. Henry on the other hand, although acted well by Brendan Thwaites, was fairly two-dimensional. His goal is to find the Trident of Poseidon so he can free his father from a curse, but this is about all we know about him. He lacks any defining characteristics and faded into the background compared to other characters.

In many ways it was more of the same, following similar plot lines to previous films in the series, and certainly doesn’t compare to the original film. There is a very odd scene on an island which I think was supposed to provide comedy but just seemed rather silly to me. There’s a scene early on which seems rather unrealistic and excessive, but this is a Pirates film so it’s easy to overlook that and enjoy the spectacle for what it is. In the end, that’s why I gave this film four stars. It wasn’t brilliant, but was thoroughly entertaining and if you just take it for what it is then it’s an enjoyable comedy adventure flick.

The film ties up some loose ends and unfinished stories from previous films, and so would seem an appropriate place to end the franchise. I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t make any more films, as I felt Salazar’s Revenge provided an appropriate ending for the series. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made another one though. So long as they’re still making money they’ll keep making them. I also wouldn’t complain about them making another one, so long as they can actually come up with a good plot for it, and make it a justifiable addition to the franchise.

Accessible Classics

If you want to get into the classics but you go into a bookshop and are horrified by the thought of attempting to get into Dickens or War and Peace, these are some good books to start with. There are plenty of classics that aren’t too daunting, but here are a few suggestions from a mixture of time periods and genres.

 ‘Older’ Classics:4d4918fd2f57d4832a5f3ee971632994

Jane Austen – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like a good period drama, it might be worth giving an Austen novel a go. Pride and Prejudice is probably the most famous, but there are also Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park.

Around the World in Eighty Days – Don’t go into it expecting it to be like the Jackie Chan film which, while keeping the basic plot, embellished it rather dramatically.

Gothic Fiction:527444

Frankenstein – The ‘myth’ of Frankenstein’s monster has changed and developed so much over the years that most people don’t know the original story. It is a surprisingly easy read.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – I didn’t realise how short this is before I purchased it, at around 70 pages.

20th Century Classics:parody-book-cover-of-the-002

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – You may have read this as a child, but if you haven’t it isn’t too late to delve into the imaginative and quirky world of Lewis Carrol.

The Bell Jar – Probably the most famous novel on depression and an incredibly important book in the history of mental illness in literature.

Detective Fiction: bdea5c13123beb8f6cff2d76abfef9ad

Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes is the most famous detective around. Doyle wrote four novels and many short stories centred on the famous detective. These books are very easy to read and the mystery keeps you hooked. The published order of his novels are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear.

Agatha Christie – Some of the best are considered The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The ABC Murders, but there are plenty of them to choose from.

Science Fiction: fahrenheit-451-c

Fahrenheit 451 – This novel imagines a world in which books are burnt and although not as well-known as 1984, is a captivating and thought-provoking read.

Animal Farm – A political and satirical novella, this is a must read if you are interested in the classic science fiction genre.

(other science-fiction choices: 1984, Brave New World, Flowers for Algernon)