*NEW* FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 3D REVIEW *NEW*

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Is my love for the Harry Potter franchise wingardium levi-over? There’s only one way to find out.

The short answer, not one bit.

Here we join the adventures of writer Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

A fun riveting special effects extravaganza that compliments its predecessors BUT tops them? Not quite.

I’ll own up. I’m a fan of the books. A collection that played a huge part in my childhood. The movies on the other hand were a mixed bag. I won’t open that can of worms BUT to cut a long story short; I actually preferred the earlier efforts as they stayed more faithful in their adaptation. The less we say about the Deathly Hallows the better. Moving on . . .

I always loved the little extracts that HP would read about Newt Scamander’s fantastic beasts. Breaking up the main story line and adding to the ever expanding mythology created by the talented J.K. Rowling.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that HP spin-offs would rear their ugly heads after the unanimous success of the box office franchise and the recent Cursed Child craze.

BUT if they can keep this high level of energy, fun and creativity then I’m happy to keep watching. I felt a little more relieved when I discovered Rowling was penning the screenplay. I mean who better, right?

As soon as the credits rolled and that infamous twinkly John Williams score began, I couldn’t resist a little grin.

You couldn’t have picked a better actor than the Oscar winning Eddie Redmayne. He was perfect. I was a little weary about his interpretation at first. I was worried that Newt was going to come across a little simple. Especially how he mumbled out of the side of his mouth.

“We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt. They’re currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet; humans”.

However once you got used to Newt’s manner and we delved a little more into his past, you soon realised this timid and socially awkward wizard was more in tune with his creatures in his TARDIS-esque suitcase than the Muggle world.

The special effects were fantastic (I know. Original). The 3D is definitely worth an investment with coins, creatures and God knows what else flying out of the screen at ya.

The creatures were excellent. The new additions varied from a jewellery pinching platypus (‘Niffler’), an invisible monkey (‘Demiguise’) to a bizarre looking rhino on heat.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the man (who won an Oscar for depicting one of the world’s greatest minds) flouncing about the place and making weird mating calls.

“Hey! Mr. English Guy! I think your egg is hatched”

egg

Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) was great as Kowalski. The Muggle unsuspectingly roped into the chaos. He stole the show with his one liners and puzzled expressions.

The thought of a prequel should have incensed the fan boy in me BUT setting it back in 1920s New York allowed Rowling to explore other aspects of the very wizarding universe she created. The jazz bar with gangster house elves and shots of Gigglewater being a particular highlight.

I loved the culture clash between the Brits and the Yanks. It was a nice touch. Right down to the slang and abbreviations. Muggle/No-Maj. Wizarding Senate/The Ministry of Magic.

It was fun and entertaining enough with Scamander and his rag tag team of misfits desperately trying to capture all the beasts. BUT it wasn’t all perfect.

Colin Farrell played the sinister Graves brilliantly. BUT there wasn’t enough of him.

I felt when the film deviated from Scamander, I lost interest. The story got bogged down too much with Ezra Miller’s (The Flash) Credence Barebone and the religious cult. Samantha Morton (Minority Report) played the abusive leader well. BUT it didn’t really go in the direction I expected.

The dark angle had potential and introduced a new menace with the infamous Grindelwald. Hardcore HP fans will already be familiar with that name. For others, the reference might be missed. And to be honest, the whole thing felt like another Voldemort (Sorry, you-know-who) retread.

The mystery Obscura (a dark force harvested within magical folk) certainly freaked me out BUT also flagged a number of questions.

I found Katharine Waterston’s (Inherent Vice) character quite irritating and her delivery was a little flat. BUT once she got caught up in the chaos with Newt and co, she soon grew on me. Her quirky mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), on the other hand, made more of an impression

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What?

Jon Voight (Deliverance) was completely unnecessary in his role. Anyone could have played him. In all fairness, there were a lot of faces that popped up in this that were nothing more than flashy cameos.

God knows how they are going to make another FOUR movies?! (That’s right!). It’s best to ignore that little fact before viewing this and take it as a solo effort for now.

BUT as long as they don’t get too bogged down by the dark stuff, I’m happy to take another journey with Newt Scamander and his fantastic beasts.

3.5/5

*NEW* SOLACE REVIEW *NEW*

Anthony-Hopkins-Solace

Solazzzzzzze?

A strange premise and two talented leads reprieve a generic by the numbers crime thriller.

A psychic (Anthony Hopkins) works with the FBI in order to hunt down a serial killer (Colin Farrell).

A watchable mess. A mind numbing opener didn’t get things going for me. It certainly didn’t help with Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s droll delivery. We had to drudge through mindless CSI exposition while we waited for Hopkins’ Clancy to come out of retirement.

Hopkins’ performance certainly lifted a lead script. His character John Clancy definitely got things going. An old man wallowing in his own exile. It picked up when we were finally able to delve into his past and, more importantly, his ability.

As soon as Agent Cowles’ (Abbie Cornish) hand brushed Hannibal’s (Sorry, John) shoulder, a quick flash (and jump from yours truly) and we see her pretty blond head covered in blood. Different. And a little creepy.

The case itself, on the other hand, for the first half hour was very dull. Formulaic and uninteresting with a number of unmemorable red herrings. Kenny Johnson (The Shield) was terrible as a sexually confused murder suspect.

It was very patchy. Cornish and Morgan did their best with their characters but they were oh so boring and clichéd. Cornish’s character did get better when her fractious relationship with John gelled. The pretentious therapist sparring with the ageing psychic was always going to be ripe for a little friction. The occasional quip and one liner livened up a few scenes.

Brendan Galvin’s cinematography was fantastic. Sweeping shots and overhead camera angles really made this stuttering effort worth looking at. The musical score, on the other hand, was incredibly OTT. It hammed up some of the better moments. If anything it felt like the composer had leant on the volume control panel.

The haunting visions and creepy little messages from Farrell’s killer certainly broke up the case. The idea that they were chasing a killer who was always one step ahead was interesting. And Hopkins’ future flashes delivered some little shocks. BUT the visions and cryptic images soon got repetitive very quickly. Especially all the snippets with Cornish and Morgan.

For all the mystery around Hopkin’s character, it was hardly a surprise when the truth was revealed. In fact it was quite predictable. It also took over an hour before Farrell and Hopkins’ characters met. BUT when they did, it was worth the wait. Almost.

The two psychics walk into a bar stand off was a cheeky little nod to Heat. They were brilliant together. It brought a much needed tension and urgency that the film desperately lacked. Farrell’s performances of late have excelled. If it wasn’t for him in True Detective, I don’t think I would have bothered.

The closing 30 minutes delivered. It was everything I expected from the get go. It was action packed, tense and suspenseful. I just wish Farrell was brought into the mix sooner. I’m happy to persevere with a slow burner BUT the characters or the story have to offer something.

Farrell’s MO sparked an interesting moral debate without going into further detail. The cat and mouse stuff was brilliant. I loved the personal video addressed to Cornish’s character. Farrell watching her every move. Even though it’s only a recording. Creepy. And the notes left with exact times of arrival was mental.

I really wish more was made of that. The psychic stuff was it’s unique selling point and the redeeming feature. The cliched cop stuff should have been thrown on the back burner.

It wasn’t a complete write off by any means. In fact, it was quite watchable. It’s solace being two stand out performances from two talented actors.

But tragically it just wasn’t enough.

2.5/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* A NEW YORK WINTER’S TALE

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An unexpected watch. Went in to the screen (not literally) expecting the usual luvvy duvvy guff (my terminology for romance stuff), but came out surprised. A well-acted love story that is as different as it is strange. Cudos for the concept but not so much for its execution. Great chemistry from a great cast shies away from the numerous plot holes. However, I would say give it a go. One that doesn’t deserve the backlash it received.

At its core without spoiling too much is the story of thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who fights to keep a dying girl’s (the beautiful Jessica Brown-Findlay from Downton Abbey) hope alive in a battle against a devilish villain, the scarfaced Pearly Soames (a sinister Russell Crowe). However, what ensues is quite different, actually. Their love unwittingly becomes a game between hidden angels and demons. I kid you not. A supernatural love fantasy that spans a century . . . almost.

Not what I expected at all from the trailers. I was going in for a typical by the numbers old fashioned period piece. The opening hooked me from the get go. We follow an amnesiac Farrell in the present day New York attempting to piece together his identity and his past. It all flicks back and forth and has enough questions and intrigue to keep me quiet.

Once the story sets itself in 1916 and the supernatural elements kick in, it gets even crazier. It all settles down a little too comfortably when Farrell and Findlay first meet, with the pace slackening. The usual love at first sight guff. The chemistry between Findlay and Farrell is brilliant. They make such a likeable couple that can get away with some of the more cringey one liners.

Crowe plays the baddie role to perfection. But for even with his Bond villain scar face, you can’t help but feel his role is being wasted. Reduced to merely plotting, making deals with fallen angels and demanding approval from his superior, The Judge (ol’ Big Horns himself. That’s right. The Devil). Cue an unexpected cameo that brought a smile. I would love to tell you. But this a story all about how . . .

I don’t want to talk about the story too much as I do want people to see this.

Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography certainly made the film worth looking at. The performances are brilliant with a massive ensemble; William Hurt (Lost in Space/Damages), Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth/Blood Diamond), Matt Bomer (White Collar/Glee) and Scott Grimes (ER/Band of Brothers) in a blink and you’ll miss it role.

Now I understand that the film was adapted from a Mark Helprin novel. Unfortunately I will admit that I haven’t read it. This film has certainly peaked my interest. But that is mainly because despite its attributes and every supernatural twist or turn, a bigger plot hole popped its ugly head. Without being too spoilerific, why was Farrell Irish when his parents were Polish immigrants? Can the guy really not do any other accent?

And what was the deal with the horse? Anyway, despite being pulled apart at the seams, it’s still a nice jacket to look at, even if it looks different to what you expected when you paid for it. An interesting concept for a debut from writer/director Akiva Goldsman. Considering this was the guy (yeah he’s a guy. I know, right? Thank God I did my research) who produced the Paranormal Activity franchise.

An easy-going supernatural love ride that may be a bit shoddy on the exposition but makes up for it with originality, special effects and good acting.

3 (just)/5