*NEW* TOMB RAIDER REVIEW *NEW*

Vikander was brilliant BUT was everything else?

Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

In a nutshell, flawed but fun. Something these video game movie adaptations (of late) have failed to achieve (Sorry Fassbender, the less we say about Assassin’s Creed, the better).

The opening set to it with some supernatural guff about a tomb entrapping a Chinese sorceresss and Lara’s father (Dominic West) being the only one who knows how to open it.

Thankfully it didn’t delve too much into that hokey stuff too early. Instead we watched a ripped Vikander (Seriously those abs put my beer belly to shame) taking a pummelling in a mixed martial arts punch up.

But that scene established her character. Resilient, feisty and stubborn to boot.

I knew Vikander wouldn’t disappoint. She had tough shoes to fill after Jolie. She was the perfect incarnation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Jolie efforts BUT they lacked something.

The first act was spent on Lara refusing to accept her father’s death. Despite all the search parties declaring him dead after a seven year absence. Scraping by as a bike courier despite being the sole heir to a rich inheritance (And an incredible mansion!).

It was nice to see Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi pop up in this BUT their characters were wasted . . . In this entry. If there are to be sequels than there is potential for (at least) Thomas’ role to grow.

Initially Dominic West was reduced to cheesy flashbacks BUT they still fared a lot better than Voight/Joile’s disjointed “dream” encounters.

You could argue that the “fox hunt” was unnecessary and cheesy BUT it was fast paced and entertaining as the couriers chased Lara around London for a cash prize. Showing how mischievous  and resourceful the heroine can be.

I liked that Lara was younger. It added a vulnerability to her. Unlike Jolie’s bad ass. Still learning the ropes and introducing her to the chaos as much as the audience. Different.

The film zipped along and I wasn’t bored. As soon as that old Japanese puzzle box was handed to Lara at the will signing, the game was afoot. The hidden rooms in Croft Manor, the cryptic messages.

Cheesy but the right amount. The more video messages and audio recordings Richard left droning on about Himiko, the more far-fetched the supernatural stuff got.

Thankfully there was enough high-octane action to keep my grumbling at bay. The set-pieces were tense and exhilarating. Even if the CGI left a little to be desired in places. Especially when Lara’s boat rode through the Ordeals of Himiko.

In one shot, the jaw dropping visuals impressed as the giant waves bombarded the old barge. The next . . . Ridiculously cartoony. It didn’t spoil the intensity of the scene but it was just a little messy.

BUT that still didn’t stop me wincing as Lara free-run across a rusty war plane balanced over the edge of a waterfall. Like I said, cheesy. BUT riveting.

I thought Daniel Wu played the drunken showboat captain Lu Ren well. And I was happy to see Walton Goggins as (the Weirdo with a beardo) Matthias Vogel and his band of meaningless mercenaries.

It was just a shame that Goggins was a little weak after such a creepy introduction. Nonchalantly declaring that he killed her father. A man obsessed with achieving his mission no matter the cost.

BUT he was pushed into the background far too much.

Junkie XL’s score was fantastic. The Mad Max maestro perfectly composed each scene with the frenetic action.

I liked how Lara wasn’t a believer of the supernatural. Refusing to believe in the mythology of Himiko.

There was depth in her character. Her remorse at having to dispose of a mercenary in a brutal manner (for a 12A) was a surprising moment. That was until she clocked up the body count with her bow and arrow 30 minutes later.

The father/daughter dynamic worked a lot better with West and Vikander, And surprisingly the actual tomb raiding didn’t happen until the 75th minute marker.

I did laugh when Richard and Lara chanted an incantation that hadn’t been mentioned throughout the film.

And this was where the film began to buckle, the final act felt rushed and slapped together.

The Himiko subplot wasn’t that interesting and when things finally came to a head, it was breezed over so quickly that I found myself wanting.

Recycling Indiana Jones territory with the booby traps (hidden spikes, crumbling floors etc) and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink for an explosive finale as it ran out of steam.

“I’ll take two”.

However, despite its flaws, this promising reboot was a solid effort that delivered in thrills, action and left areas to explore.

And if there was to be another, I wouldn’t grumble.

Vikander was flawless. We just need a more interesting mythology and a stronger villain for our heroine to take on.

3/5

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*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

queenie-goldstein

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