Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1926, wizard Newt Scamander briefly stops over in New York City en route to Arizona. He encounters Mary Lou Barebone, a No-Maj (non-magical human) and the head of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, which claims that witches and wizards are real and dangerous. As Newt listens to her speak, a Niffler escapes from his magically-expanded suitcase that houses multiple magical creatures. As he attempts to capture it, Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj cannery worker whose bank loan for a bakery was denied due to lack of collateral, mistakenly carries off Newt’s suitcase. Demoted Auror Tina Goldstein arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard and takes him to the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) headquarters, hoping to regain her former position. However, President Seraphina Picquery and Auror Percival Graves dismiss the case. At Jacob’s tenement apartment, several creatures escape Newt’s suitcase.

Graves approaches Credence Barebone, Mary Lou’s adopted son, and offers to free him from his abusive mother in exchange for his finding the host of an Obscurus, a dark, destructive force inadvertently manifested by young magical children forced to conceal their powers. The force can be unleashed during periods of anger and stress; Graves believes that it has caused several mysterious destructive incidents around the city.

After Tina and Newt find Jacob and the suitcase, Tina takes them to her apartment and introduces them to Queenie, her Legilimens sister. Queenie and Jacob are mutually attracted, though American wizards are forbidden to marry No-Majs or interact with them. Newt takes Jacob inside his magically-expanded suitcase, where Jacob encounters a contained Obscurus that Newt had extracted from a girl in the past. Newt persuades Jacob to help search for the missing creatures. After re-capturing the Niffler and an Erumpent, they re-enter the suitcase, which Tina takes to MACUSA. Officials arrest them, believing Newt’s Obscurus to be responsible for killing Senator Henry Shaw Jr., and decide to destroy Newt’s suitcase and obliviate Jacob’s memory. Graves interrogates Newt and Tina and accuses Newt of conspiring with the infamous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. Newt and Tina are immediately sentenced to death, but they escape and meet up with Queenie and Jacob; the foursome then capture the last of the creatures after receiving a tip from the goblin gangster Gnarlack.

Credence finds a wand under his adopted sister Modesty’s bed. Mary Lou assumes the wand is Credence’s, but Modesty claims it is hers. When she is about to be punished, the Obscurus is unleashed, killing everyone except Modesty and Credence. Graves arrives and dismisses Credence as being a Squib (a non-magical person of wizard ancestry), and refuses to tutor him in magic after they arrive in Modesty’s biological family’s home. Credence then reveals himself as the host of the Obscurus, the real cause of Shaw’s death, and it unleashes upon the city in a rage.

In a subway tunnel, Newt talks to Credence but is attacked by Graves. Tina, who knows Credence, arrives and attempts to calm him, while Graves tries to convince Credence to listen to him instead. As Credence begins to settle into human form, Picquery arrives with Aurors and decides Credence’s life must be forfeited to keep magic hidden. The Aurors apparently disintegrate him, but Newt notices a tiny Obscurus shred fleeing. Graves admits to unleashing the Obscurus to expose the magical community to the No-Majs, and angrily claims that MACUSA protects the No-Majs more than themselves. He is subdued and taken into custody after Newt reveals him to be Grindelwald in disguise.

MACUSA fears it is too late to protect their secret world, but Newt releases his Thunderbird to disperse a potion over the city via a downpour that will erase all New Yorkers’ recent memories. MACUSA wizards repair the destruction, and Jacob reluctantly agrees to let himself be obliviated as well. Queenie kisses Jacob goodbye as the rain erases his memories. Newt departs for Europe, but promises to return and visit Tina once he finishes his book; he also anonymously leaves Jacob a case of Occamy eggshells (made of silver), allowing Jacob to fulfill his dream of opening his own bakery. His breads and pastries are unknowingly inspired by Newt’s creatures, and a visit by Queenie seems to spark his erased memories.

REVIEW:

When the final credits finished rolling on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt II, many of us thought it would be the last time we would see that world on film. That is until late last year when mysterious teasers for this film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, started popping up. Being a prequel and a spinoff of one of the most beloved and successful franchises of all time, there are big shoes to be filled. Can this flick pull it off?

What is this about?

The year is 1926 and Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident…were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

What did I like?

Beastly. I was so scared going into this that the beasts were going to be used sparingly, while we are forced to sit through some bureaucratic drama and half-assed action. Words cannot describe my relief when I saw the beasts used for the whole film, much like magic in the Harry Potter films. It just wouldn’t have been right to have a film about these creatures and we barely see them. As it were, we get plenty of scenes with them all, and even get to know a few.

Uncultured swine. Watch any movie or tv show set in New York or Chicago back in 20-early 40s, and you will find the greasy fat guy with a thick accent who may or may not be on the level. Dan Fogler brings this old school vibe to his character of Jacob, who also brings to mind Fred Flintstone. He is most definitely the comic relief, but there is also some depth to the character that we see as the film comes to a close. Hopefully, this will not be the last we see of the guy.

Stand on your own two feet. As this is set 70 years before Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it would be hard to show things that haven’t happened yet. However, as we’ve seen with prequel shows like Gotham, the powers that be will still force something that hasn’t happened yet (as in criminals that are Batman foes appearing while Bruce Wayne is still a kid). The only callback (or call forward) is a discussion about Hogwarts, the Ministry, etc. Basically, this film is able to stand on its own, without relying on easter eggs. For that, it deserves major kudos!

What didn’t I like?

Take the lead. I don’t know what it is, but Eddie Redmayne just doesn’t cut it as a leading man. I realize that as I type that, I forgot that he was nominated for an Oscar this past year. Still, he guy doesn’t scream leading man, at least to me. He doesn’t command the audience pay attention to him, but rather just ambles on through the film. The only time we give him any kind of though is when he is describing the beasts.

Bitter old man. Jon Voight seems to be nothing more than a grumpy old man these days. No wonder his daughter, Angelina Jolie, doesn’t talk to him. To be honest, he was such a non character in this film, it makes one wonder why he was cast. I half believe he was meant to be something more, but those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

Cloudy, with a chance of destruction. I guess the filmmakers didn’t learn anything from Fantastic Four and Green Lantern. Both of those films used cloudy, destructive masses as the antagonist. This film does something similar, using a cloudy mass as the Obscurus. As this big cloud went through the city, destroying everything in its wake, it was hard to see what was going on. This is in stark contrast to watching the creatures that had escaped. I guess I was wishing they had put more thought into the design of this thing, rather than cop out and just make it a big cloud.

Final thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? This spinoff from the Potter world lives up to its predecessor. The tone of the film shifts seamlessly from jovial and light hearted to dark and sinister and back. The action scenes are great and the music is reminiscent of John Williams’ great score. I am anxiously looking forward to more films in this budding franchise. Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! This is one of those films that everyone can enjoy! Stop reading and run and go see it!!!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 11/24

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on November 24, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I think I say this every year, but there just aren’t any movies set around Thanksgiving. So, I’ll just share with you something I was watching a few days ago. Enjoy the trailer for Uncle Buck

Man Up

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Nancy, is done with dating. 10 times bitten, 100 times shy, she’s exhausted by the circus. So when Jack blindly mistakes her for his date, no one is more surprised than her when she does the unthinkable and just — goes with it. It’s going to take a night of pretending to be someone else for Nancy to finally man up and be her painfully honest, awesomely unconventional self… but will Jack also man up, and be able to get over her duplicity? Best just to let the evening unfold, roll with the consequences, and see if one crazy, unpredictable, complicated night can bring these two messy souls together.

What people are saying:

“Fast-paced and funny with lot’s of quirky, interesting and sometime creepy characters. Good satisfying nonsense.” 4 1/2 stars

“Sweet, heartfelt, very humorous in an awkward kind of way. There was a real chemistry between Pegg and Bell. The ending was predictable but not the road leading to it.” 3 1/2 stars

“Lovely, funny film that does romantic comedy in an honest, sharp way. Pegg and Bell have a tangible chemistry and lightning fast rapport. Kinnear is simultaneously disturbing and absolutely hilarious. There is a quiet, yet earnest charm to the film, that makes it rather endearing as it embraces and betters the romcom tropes and cliches. It is the most well constructed romantic comedy I have ever seen. Well worth the watch!” 5 stars

“I really wanted to love this movie. The London location is neat, and the initial device–meeting the wrong blind date under the clock–is cute. But the girl lead is just SO annoying (like, why is she blowing off her lovely parents’ 40th anniversary party and not simply telling this nice nerdy guy that she’s not Jessica? What’s taking her so long to do the right thing?) Women will want want to throw their Ben & Jerry’s at the screen as they watch this. It’ll drive you crazy to see a beautiful nut-case get away with sleazy stuff that you could NEVER get away with–and would never try. I can’t believe a woman actually wrote the screenplay. Who did she identify with–the lying neurotic female lead? Ew.  ” 4 stars

“Although its climax and ending still have to rely on the same romantic cliches to get going, there are many things to like about Man Up. The hyperrealistic, quick and witty dialogue and interactions between the two leads play out almost like modern poetry; it is an enjoyable combination of awkwardness and farce. And this consistent chemistry continues to impress throughout the film, making Man Up a solid recommendation for a date night movie.” 4 stars

Trailer Thursday 11/17

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on November 17, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

One of the most highly acclaimed films in the Disney cannon is Beauty & the Beast. Early next year, we will be getting a live action adapation of the fine film, which looks great from what ive seen so far. Check out the original first, though.

Doctor Strange (2016)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Kathmandu, Nepal, the sorcerer Kaecilius and his zealots enter the secret compound Kamar-Taj and murder its librarian, keeper of ancient and mystical texts. They steal a ritual from a book belonging to the Ancient One, a sorcerer who has lived for an unknown time and taught all at Kamar-Taj, including Kaecilius, in the ways of the mystic arts. The Ancient One pursues the traitors, but Kaecilius escapes with the pages and some of his followers.

Stephen Strange, an acclaimed neurosurgeon, loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Fellow surgeon and former lover Christine Palmer tries to help him move on, but Strange, believing he can regain use of his hands, instead uses all his resources pursuing experimental surgeries in vain. After learning of Jonathon Pangborn, a paraplegic who mysteriously was able to walk again, Strange seeks him out, and is directed to Kamar-Taj. There, Strange is taken in by another sorcerer under the Ancient One, Mordo. The Ancient One shows Strange her power, revealing the astral plane and other dimensions such as the Mirror Dimension. Strange begs her to teach him, and she eventually agrees despite his arrogance, which reminds her of Kaecilius.

Strange begins his tutelage under the Ancient One and Mordo, and learns from the ancient books in the library, now presided over by the master Wong. Strange learns that Earth is protected from other dimensions by a spell formed from three buildings called Sanctums, found in New York City, London, and Hong Kong. The task of the sorcerers is to protect the Sanctums, though Pangborn chose to forgo this responsibility in favor of channeling mystical energy into walking again. Strange advances quickly over several months, even secretly reading from the text Kaecilius stole from and learning to bend time with the mystical Eye of Agamotto. Mordo and Wong warn Strange against breaking the laws of nature, comparing his arrogant yearning for power to that of Kaecilius, who believes, after the deaths of his loved ones, that everyone should have eternal life.

Kaecilius and his followers use the stolen pages to begin summoning the powerful Dormammu of the Dark Dimension, where time does not exist and all can live forever. This destroys the London Sanctum, and sends Strange from Kamar-Taj to the New York Sanctum. The zealots then attack there, where Strange holds them off with the mystical Cloak of Levitation until Mordo and the Ancient One arrive. Strange and Mordo become disillusioned with the Ancient One after Kaecilius reveals that her long life has come from her own use of Dormammu’s power. Kaecilius mortally wounds the Ancient One, and escapes to Hong Kong. The Ancient One tells Strange that he, too, will have to break the rules, to balance Mordo’s steadfast nature. She then dies, despite the best efforts of Strange and a bewildered Palmer. Strange and Mordo arrive in Hong Kong to find Wong dead and the Sanctum destroyed, with the Dark Dimension already engulfing Earth. Strange uses the Eye to turn back time and save Wong, before creating an infinite time loop inside the Dark Dimension that traps himself and Dormammu in the same moment forever. Strange agrees to break the loop if Dormammu leaves Earth, and the latter takes Kaecilius and the zealots with him.

Disgusted by Strange and the Ancient One’s disregard for the consequences of defying nature, Mordo departs. Strange returns the Eye, which Wong calls an Infinity Stone, to Kamar-Taj, and then takes up residence in the New York Sanctum to continue his studies. In a mid-credits scene, Strange agrees to help Thor, who has brought his brother Loki to Earth to search for their father Odin. In a post-credits scene, Mordo visits Pangborn and steals the energy he uses to walk, stating that Earth has “too many sorcerers”.

REVIEW:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has reached the point now to where they can explore some of the lesser known, but still major characters. This is why we are getting films such as Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and this one, Doctor Strange. It is a risky move with this guy, especially with the use of mysticism, but if anyone cane make it work, it is Marvel. Let’s see how they did, shall we?

What is this about?

Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” follows the story of the talented neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a tragic car accident, must put ego aside and learn the secrets of a hidden world of mysticism and alternate dimensions. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Doctor Strange must act as an intermediary between the real world and what lies beyond, utilising a vast array of metaphysical abilities and artifacts to protect the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What did I like?

Visuals. You’ve seen the trailers and advertisements for this film, I’m sure, so I don’t really need to tell you that this film is something that can best be described as Inception on acid. Doctor Strange, much like Thor was, is not an easy character to bring to life, especially when you  start trying to portray his powers. Throw in others who have powers that may or may nor be on another level from his and your mind is blown! This is just something that has to be seen!

Strange things. When casting Dr. Strange, the first person I thought of was Robert Downey, Jr., but the problem with that choice is he’s already playing Iron Man (strangely enough there are man similarities between Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, starting with their choice of facial hair). Upon hearing Benedict Cumberbatch was cast, I was skeptical as to how he would pull it off. Not because he’s a bad actor, but because this seemed to be a bit beneath him. As it turns out, this is as perfect a role for him as Sherlock. Cumberbatch brings the cockiness needed, while also being he defeated student who is learning everything he can. I look forward to seeing much more from him in this role.

So, that’s the connection! For a Marvel film, there is about as much mention of the other Marvel properties as there are in the Netflix shows, which I actually appreciated. There is one mention of the Avengers that I remember and that was it. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with constant reminders. A few Easter eggs are nice here and there, but everything has its limit. By holding off on the MCU stuff, the scene at the beginning of the credits is much more effective as it ties him into the universe and sets up one of the next Marvel films (I won’t spoil which one).

What didn’t I like?

Is this love? It seems as if one can’t enjoy a superhero movie without the token love story, whether it fits or not. In this case, it does not. In the film’s defense, this isn’t truly a love story, as much as it is an attempt to put two people who have history and similar interests together just because. Rachel McAdams is a gorgeous woman, but I don’t think the audience would be missing much had her scenes been reduced.

Villain. If there is one weakness in these Marvel films, it seems to be the villains. Other than Loki, none of them have been memorable, let alone a threat. I know what you’re going to say….Zemo was a threat in Captain America: Civil War and Thanos is lurking out there. With Zemo, sure he was effective, but who remembers anything about the guy? Thanos’ time is coming soon…VERY soon. You can add Dormmamu and his minion Kaecilius to the list of ineffective villains. We are never really made clear of their intentions, other than Dormmamu wants to escape the Dark Dimensiom and send the Earth back there, but why?!? I need some motivation for why you are trying to destroy existence!

Whitewashing. Much has been said about the casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. For me, not being Asian, it isn’t a big deal, but I can imagine how difficult it is to accept the change. I’m not going to go into some long diatribe about this, but I do feel as if the audience deserved at least a snippet of the Ancient One as an old Asian guy. The film makes a point about how his form is fluid, so who’s to say he needs to look like a creepy, bald white woman?

Final verdict on Doctor Strange? A solid introduction to a lesser-known character. The film really shines when it comes to the visuals. Cumberbatch, sporting an American accent that he doesn’t quite seem comfortable with, seems to be having fun with the character which really sells it to the audience. There are a few minor issues here and there, but they aren’t anything that cannot be overcome. Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! Go check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 11/10

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on November 10, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, so I thought a film dealing with the war would be best, don’t you?

Check out In Harm’s Way (and this star – studded cast)

Trailer Thursday 11/3

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on November 3, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Seems as if a lot of my friends are having babies these days, so I thought it the perfect time to share with you all the trailer for 1987’s Baby Boom

Enjoy!