Category Archives: Movies The Ultimate Escape

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: FANTASTIC BEASTS – THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (semi-spoilers? read opening paragraph before reading)

So in this review I am not going to spoil anything major that happens in FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD. However, the spoilers do affect what I feel about the film, so while I will allude to the spoilers and give very vague hints about what is going on, I do not outright reveal the who, what, where, when, how, or why. Well, I do have to talk about the end, sort of, so I do ruin one when, but that’s it. If you want to go in this film as fresh as I did (I literally only saw the two trailers and a couple of tv spots), then I wouldn’t read this review until you have seen the film, which comes out tomorrow night. I guess you could say this movie has sort of semi-spoilers, but not really. If however, you just don’t get a shit or one of the ones messaging me last night wanting me to just outright tell you the ending but nothing else, I’d say this is safe for you to read. But for my intro, I’m just going to copy and paste the tiny paragraph I wrote on Facebook, because its the first time I had all my thoughts organized and I still think it gives off perfectly what I thought of the film: FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is my least favorite film now in the Wizarding World of movies. It’s an unfortunate bridge film that has too much exposition, too much story, and not enough cinematic magic that made most of the films that came before this so wonderful. WTF revelations and too many questions make it seem like J.K. Rowling is pulling stuff out of her ass where in the end it might turn her into Damon Lindelof in the eyes of not just regular audiences, but her legion of followers. The shocks and double crosses were cheap and underdeveloped and the cool and wonderful creatures that had a central role in the first film feel shoved aside for mythological fan service. I was extremely disappointed.

Yes, that’s right, I did not like this movie much. And I love the Harry Potter world. I love J.K. Rowling’s universe. I’ve read all seven books, the little charity trilogy that contains Fantastic Beasts, and have even read the screenplay to Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2. I am not obsessed with the mythology though and couldn’t tell you stuff on the top of my head if asked, so when reading this, and if you are a Potter person, keep that in mind. The beginning of the film showed some promise with a pretty cool prison escape and a couple of more fantastic beasts exploits to the point where I was wondering why this movie was getting bad reviews. But then, sure enough, it all came crumbling down piece by piece, beat by beat, endless exposition after endless exposition. And I get that there is supposed to be 5 films so this is all supposed to (hopefully) pay off in the end. Originally this was supposed to be a trilogy, and if that was still the case, I would give this film a little more credit where its due, because I would accept it as a bridge film. But Rowling said this is supposed to be a 5 film adventure, so it is unforgivable that the bridge film is the 2nd in the series. It should be the 4th, the one right before the finale, like Half Blood Prince was (my former least favorite film in the Wizarding World), and I might could consider the third being the bridge film as well, making a little healthy sandwich where the first two are individual self contained tales, the middle exposition, and the last two being payoffs. But NOT the 2ND movie.

The whole movie is just characters talking about what is what, only occasionally doing a minor flashback here and there to bridge your imagination gap, and the creatures that were a central and fun part to the first film are now just awkwardly shoved in the story at random different places because, producers, because they said, “the series is called Fantastic Beasts so we gotta have Fantastic Beasts in there no matter what!” The finale is even anti-climatic, with people just talking and then stumbling, performing a little magic, and then just talking. Where people have said that the Lord of the Rings are just walking movies, well, this film is the Lord of the Rings of talking ones. Oh, were you excited that Nagini (future Horocrux and pet snake to Voldemort) is being introduced in this one? She does absolutely nothing in this film and in it entirely for fan service. Wondering how she is just a snake later on in the universe? Explained away, instead of actually showing the audience what is going on, with one line of dialogue. Did you like all the characters in the first Fantastic Beasts film? So did I, and Rowling does something so uncharacteristic and unforgiving to one of them, one of my favorite parts of the first film, and completely just destroys it like a kid stomping on repeatedly a cockroach nest he just found. Curious about any of the new characters? Don’t be. One of them shows up randomly near the end of the film and basically does nothing, and one of them is set up, explained, and then discarded.

Which brings me to the “WTF Revelation” at the ending of the film. But before I get to that, let’s talk about prequels really quick. Prequels most of the time don’t work because we know what is going to happen to most of the characters. Hence why the Star Wars prequels aren’t that good. The Hobbit movies aren’t that good. And if you know any of your Harry Potter lore, all the books and movies included, you know what is going to happen to Dumbledore, Newt, Tina, Grindelwald, Nicholas Flammel, Nagini, and a couple of others. So where are the stakes you may ask? Prequels like to play it safe, so they will abide by the previous established lore almost word for word for upsetting fans. They might everyone in a while add little twists to what you already know, but not big enough to piss you off, usually something small yet charming. I could name endless examples but I don’t have time. The end of the film brings a revelation of some kind, to a character, event, whatever I’m not telling you, that was not in any previously established Harry Potter lore, and is so big that how Rowling is going to explain how none of the characters mention it in the Harry Potter films or the books is going to be quite challenging. Let’s just say that if I told you this revelation, and you went studying and researching Harry Potter right now, you would not come up with this revelation in any of the mythology that is available to read right now, or even hints of it. And maybe that is the point, I get it, but it just seems like it is going to be extremely hard to explain away in a future installment.

Want me to get to some positives about the film? Sure, I can definitely say that I think Jude Law was hands down the best part of the film and is a fantastic younger Albus Dumbledore. When the films goes back to Hogwarts (not a spoiler, it was in the early trailers), the movie has a very nice temporary shine. Alas, it is short lived, as Jude Law isn’t in the film as much as I would like him to be, nor is Hogwarts. I know we need to Last Jedi everything and forget the past and kill it if we have to, but Hogwarts is just so damn fun to be in and around. I still like Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. I think he’s excellent in the role and was still in top shape here. I still love Dan Fogler Jacob Kowalski as Newt’s muggle new friend, although another one line of dialogue explains away the situation he was in at the end of the last film. The CGI and effects are still really good, and when the creatures do come on screen, albeit extremely forced within the story this time, they still bring a smile to my face and are magical to watch and see what they do next. I like Katherine Waterson, even though she’s not in the film very much this time, and Ezra Miller still plays it nice and cold as Credence (he didn’t die in the first one, if you watch closely at the end you can very much see that.)

Now let’s get to Johnny Depp. His whole personal story with his ex-wife Amber Heard aside, there is no doubt that he is a good actor, but lately, he’s just played weird characters, or has revisited old ones one too many times. I don’t really like him all that much as Grindelwald. It’s just Johnny Depp playing another one of his weird, annoying characters as of late, and this one of course was not a lovable one, so it was hard to get into. I think that if he would’ve played Colin Farrell’s part in Fantastic Beasts, and then Colin Farrell ended up being the big reveal of Grindelwald at the end of the first film, this whole series would’ve rocked its villain. Colin Farrell would’ve nailed it, but Johnny Depp is what we’ve got and…eh.

I could honestly also be disappointed because I loved the first Fantastic Beasts film so much (it was in my top ten somewhere the year it came out). Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them has great re watch value. Whenever my wife puts it on, we watch it and enjoy it, never bored. I was bored during this film. When walking out of the theater, both her and I agreed that this doesn’t have very much re watch value unless you are doing a marathon of the whole series. And that’s where I think it will be for me. While I was disappointed, it’s not a terrible film, it will just be like Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows Part 1, where I will never get the urge to put it in my blu ray player randomly unless I’m watching everything in order to experience the whole adventure. J.K. Rowling needs some serious screenwriting help for the next film. She needs to co-write it with someone knows how to write a scene where it shows something to the audience rather than just telling the audience. There is no doubt she is a fantastic author, but a fantastic author doesn’t necessarily make a fantastic screenwriter. Totally different beasts.

My Personal Rank of the Wizarding World Films:
1. Order of The Phoenix
2. Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Sorcerer’s Stone
4. Deathly Hallows Part 2
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
6. Goblet of Fire
7. Chamber of Secrets
8. Deathly Hallows Part 1
9. Half Blood Prince
10. Crimes of Grindelwald

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: OVERLORD (no spoilers)

Out of all the wide releases this weekend, instead of seeing the umpteenth version of the Grinch or a unnecessary reboot of a Dragon Tattoo no one asked for, I decided to see J.J. Abram’s produced OVERLORD, which I think was once billed as being in the Cloverfield universe somehow, but really isn’t…it is it’s own unique picture. This is essentially a B-movie plot you’d find in a SciFi Channel Original or some straight to video schlock in a $5 discount bin, but with an A+ production value. What I’m meaning to say is that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and in parts even found it to be great and masterful. At points it even got to being in the realm of fucking badassdom. If I could compare it to another movie, I’d say look at what From Dusk Till Dawn accomplished. From Dust Till Dawn is essentially two movies. The first half of the film is a story of two criminal brothers on a killing/crime spree, and then at about the half way point, it’s a film about surviving the night by a group of vampires. This film starts out as a World War II gritty man on a mission film, and then about half way through…

Well, if you’ve seen the trailers, it looks like zombies right? Trust me when I saw there is a lot more too it than that and when they who, what, where, when, and how is explained, everything is much more satisfying than all the promotional material led you to believe. Some people are calling this is Tarantino remade Inglourious Basterds into a fucked up Sci-Fi B movie, and they happen to be way off. Tarantino has that edge of not taking his films too seriously (funny tidbit is that he wrote and co-starred in From Dusk Till Dawn), always winking at the camera every five or ten minutes. Overlord takes itself completely seriously. No nods or winks to the camera. No subtle dialogue inferring how ridiculous this all is. Completely serious. The first half of the movie completely works as a small scale yet large consequence little 4 man on a mission movie. The plot? To get to this church run by Nazi’s to take down the communication tower before D-Day. The film just starts you in the shit, with troopers about to jump off the plane right in the middle of chaos. No scenes of exposition before about how everyone got there (thank God), instead we just learn about the characters through their action in the film and through little breathing room bits of dialogue the film has (always a great film technique, exposition scenes should’ve died in the 90s).

Obviously what they find there isn’t all that its been cracked up to be. And that’s where I’ll leave it. Again, if you’ve seen the trailers and stuff, you’ve seen some pretty messed up horrific shit, but story wise you’ve only scratched the surface. And that’s where I in parts loved this film, it defies expectations in some areas. It defies expectations some in who lives and who dies. It defies expectations with Wyatt Russell’s (Kurt Russell’s son) Ford character, several times actually. It defies expectations with the “zombies.” The film does have some problems though, one of them being that the four war boys run into this French young woman that takes them in and hides them from the Germans and reveals that her aunt is very “sick” and to not go into her room. Ultimately, I thought this would have some huge payoff in the end but it doesn’t and is very anti-climatic what happens to her. Sometimes, specifically at the beginning, the film was really dark and it was hard at points to see what was going on. And some of the dialogue is a bit bland and choppy at times. But those are minor complaints with how much entertainment value this film has.

I will go even on the record saying that you might enjoy this even if you don’t like horror movies that much. The film is just a lot of fun even though it is completely taking itself seriously. There are a bunch of great other things in this film too. Wyatt Russell has never been better in a film (he is currently on AMC Lodge 49 and played Channing Tatum’s bromance in 22 Jump Street). With his performance here, I say if they ever want to reboot or do another true sequel to the “Escape From: films, that he could even take over his father’s role as Snake Plissken. The real main lead, played by Joven Adepo, is played with perfect innocence, doing what is morally right, until those situations come up where you just have to fight for your life. The young french woman, played by a newcomer, Mathilde Ollivier, plays that bad ass sassy no damsel in distress role perfectly, and John Magaro and Pilou Asbaek play a great comic relief and main bad guy respectively.

Oh, and the make up/CGI effects in this are just fucking amazing and killer. Wonderful job. I’m glad it wasn’t all CGI and I think it could’ve been distracting, instead it does a near perfect mixture, very nice to look at. The action is good, the last 25 minutes is just one big chase action set piece that was very well well directed. And I loved how the movie doesn’t end on how conventional action/horror movies would end. It’s just a very well made fun/serious film that has a lot of heart and originality. A breath of fresh air in a weekend full of umpteenth tries and reboots that I probably will not see in the theater (I had a ticket for Girl In The Spider’s Web on Friday, but returned it, as scathing reviews and my tiredness led me to choose some shut eye, I have no intention of rescheduling). So yeah, Overlord was pretty damn good. Not a masterpiece by any means, but I can see people discovering it at a later date and watching it over and over again. Check it out now if you can though, especially if you can think of a theater with really good sound.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? is a simple little true story criminal tale with career making performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. I liked it. Go see it. Maybe a nomination or two. The End.

Just kidding. Sometimes simple is a little better and a little refreshing. The movie is based on the true story of autobiographical writer Lee Israel, who’s career was so short lived, she quickly ran out of money, and in the early 90s, decided to make forgeries of letters that were “written” by deceased authors and actors, and sold them for top dollar. When reading up on her she actually had a career before becoming an autobiographical writer, mainly being a freelance journalist for magazines and in 1960s and beyond. But the movie doesn’t touch on that, it focuses right as she decides to make forgeries for money.

The movie is very tight (perfect run time), entertaining, and I was surprised about how well the humor works in this movie. I laughed out loud quite a bit, specifically the parts where she monologues the forgeries she is writing. The film is very formulaic, so if there are any movie buffs out there that can’t stand that anymore and want to see something different, you might not want to check this out. It has the typical rise and fall plot + an epilogue redemption sort of thing. Very simple fare, but I feel that if the film is entertaining to boot and the performances are more than average, then those familiar beats can be forgiven.

And the performances are where it is at. This is easily Melissa McCarthy’s best performance. Ever. Yes, better than Bridesmaids. She is fantastic here and is able to use her comedic ability to her advantage and actually not try to just Adam Sandler up everything this time. She makes Lee Israel somewhat sort of a sympathetic character even though we really should have no sympathy for her. Whether she gets nominated or not Oscar wise just depends on the other performances that have yet to be released. In a saner Hollywood community, Richard E. Grant would be a shoo in for best supporting actor as a old gay, not friend, but aquaintance, that helps her sometimes with selling her forgeries. Their chemistry is wonderful, playing off of each other on screen.

So like this simple little movie, my review will be that simple. If I spoil any of the forgery fun then I should be put in movie jail. I enjoyed this little film and while I wouldn’t buy it, I think if I could it on television or Netflix sometime I would definitely watch it through. Completely recommend this if you are a Melissa McCarthy fan, but I swear if she puts her husband in one more film…yeah yeah it’s cute that they work together on everything, but like Adam Sandler’s friends, it’s starting to get a tad annoying.

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Unless Christian Bale blows everyone including me away as Dick Cheney in the film Vice that comes out late December, give the Best Actor Oscar to Rami Malek for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Easily. Within the first five minutes of the movie, I no longer saw Rami Malek, I saw him as Freddie Mercury and couldn’t believe it was someone just playing a role anymore. I was speechless by the end of the film, and could’ve watched a whole different movie with him playing Freddy Mercury for another two hours (we’ll get to that later). The rest of the movie? It’s a standard, very, very fictionalized bio pic of Queen. It does nothing new on screen that you haven’t seen in a musical bio pic before. I’ve heard that a lot of what is on screen, either didn’t really happen, or is a bombastic take on what did really happen. And if you look on Rotten Tomatoes and see the semi-low score from critics, you’ll know that was really their chief complaint. But if you look at the box office, and the audience score on RT, you’ll know that people really didn’t give a shit whether it was fictionalized or not. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. The movie is never ever boring, they certainly get the music right, and I consider it a privilege seeing Rami Malek’s tremendous work. However, I would now ask that some studio re hire Malek while he is still young looking, and get him to do a more serious bio pic, R-rated, more into the darkness of his life and soul that what I just saw in this.

I think a lot of people would agree with me that if you don’t know Queen, you don’t know music. Several of their songs are stamped into my memory so hard that every so often one of them gets stuck in my head for several days at a time. But if you want their real story, I would suggest watching interviews with the rest of the band, or people that were close to them, heck, maybe even their Wikipedia page, because I believe you will get more truth out of those articles and sound bites than you did in this film. I’m not going to do a full comparison on here, but it’s safe to say that a lot of the ways they came up with songs in the movie, didn’t happen the way you see it in this movie. And yes, I get that with a lot of true stories, filmmakers have to bombastically put fictionalized accounts in the film, because if they didn’t, the studios wouldn’t know how to market the movie, and the movie wouldn’t make any money. Case in point, this movie made $51 million this weekend and is the second highest musical bio pic opening weekend ever. What if a different movie was made, a more down to Earth version, hard Rated R, looking really deeply into Freddie Mercury’s troubled life? Would it have made more or even as much as this one did? I’m very highly doubting it.

What the studio probably should and could do now, but won’t, is have someone write a more personal Freddie Mercury bio pic now, Queen being still in it, but they take a back burner to Freddy Mercury’s homosexuality and AIDS battle, and yet still re cast Rami Malek in the role, and make a much much better thought provoking film than this one. They now have the foundation of the box office success of Bohemian Rhapsody to go on, and Malek’s fantastic performance. That won’t happen though, because the studio won’t want to take a risk with a R-rated more true story pic, and that is sad. That being said, this movie does have re watch value, but that is only because I could watch Rami Malek as Freddie for hours and never be bored, and it is fun listening to all of Queen’s hits over and over and over. How is everybody else’s acting compared to Rami Malek’s? The word I would use is serviceable but completely forgettable. Lucy Boyton (Sing Street) couldn’t been fantastic if she was feature in the film more. The only one memorable role would be that of Mike Myers as a fictional producer that doesn’t want to use Bohemian Rhapsody as Queen’s new featured single on their new album because “it’s too long and nobody will bang their heads to this song.” And the reason why this scene is memorable is just because it is Mike Myers winking to the fact that him and Garth head banged to Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World back in the early 90s and made the song even more popular than it already was.

The movie is colorful, vibrant, and yes, well directed by Bryan Singer even though the studio is trying to keep his name out of it as much as possible due to his aggressive behavior on set and those gay rape allegations from years ago. Other than Malek’s performance, the Live Aid performance at the very end, and the music, the movie is just standard and adds nothing new to bio pic genre or even film in general. It’s still memorable but on the cusp of being forgettable due to the fact that a lot of things are fictionalized. It does go over Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality and contracting AIDS, but it didn’t do it enough. There is different or another film in there somewhere, 30 minutes longer, with Malek still in the lead role, but more in depth with what was going on with him personally, a film that really got inside its head. This should’ve been that movie, so while I’m a little bit disappointed, I still got something special with Rami Malek. Sometimes you just have to accept the silver lining.