Archive for Ezra Miller

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

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Charlie is nervous about beginning his freshman year of high school. He is shy and slow to make friends: on the first day, he only connects with his English teacher.

Charlie befriends two seniors, Sam and her stepbrother Patrick. After a football game they take him to a high school dance and then a house party. Charlie unwittingly eats a cannabis brownie and becomes intoxicated. He admits to Sam that his best friend committed suicide the year before. He also discovers Patrick and Brad, a popular athlete, kissing in a room. Sam realizes that Charlie has no other friends, and makes Charlie part of their group. Charlie agrees to help Sam prepare for her SAT exams so she may enter Pennsylvania State University. On the way home from the party, the three drive through a tunnel and Sam stands up in the back of the pickup truck while listening to a song they call “The Tunnel Song” (“Heroes” by David Bowie).

During Christmas, the group organizes a Secret Santa. Though Sam was not Charlie’s Santa, she gives him a vintage typewriter. While discussing relationships, Charlie reveals he has never been kissed. Sam reveals that her first kiss was from her father’s boss when she was 11 years old. Sam adds that she wants Charlie’s first kiss to be from someone who loves him before kissing him.

Sam, Patrick and their friends regularly take part in acting out The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Charlie is asked to take part in the show when Sam’s college boyfriend, Craig, is unavailable. An impressed Mary Elizabeth, one of their friends, asks Charlie to the Sadie Hawkins dance. After the dance, Mary Elizabeth takes Charlie to her house and they kiss. She declares how glad she is to have him as her boyfriend.

Mary Elizabeth dominates the relationship, and Charlie grows irritated by her. At a party, they break up during a game of Truth or Dare when Charlie, without thinking, kisses Sam after being dared to kiss the most beautiful girl in the room. Sam is furious at Charlie. Charlie returns to isolation after Patrick tells him to stay away while things cool down. Charlie has flashbacks of the death of his Aunt Helen who died in a car accident when he was seven years old.

Patrick breaks up with Brad after Brad’s father catches them together. In the school cafeteria, Brad calls Patrick a “faggot” because Brad does not want his friends believing they are friends. Patrick attacks Brad, but Brad’s friends beat him up. Charlie intervenes, lunging at Brad’s friends, but blacks out. When he comes to, he finds he has bruised knuckles and the boys are on the floor in pain. Charlie helps Patrick to his feet and coldly warns Brad, “Touch my friends again, and I’ll blind you”. Patrick, Sam and Charlie reconcile. Patrick takes Charlie to a park and discusses how he witnessed Brad’s father beat him when he found Brad with Patrick. Patrick then states his wish that he could meet a nice guy, and kisses Charlie, but immediately apologizes. He hugs Charlie and Charlie hugs him back.

Sam receives her college acceptance letter from Pennsylvania State University, which states that she must leave immediately for a summer introductory program. Sam breaks up with Craig after learning he has been cheating on her. The night before she departs, Sam brings Charlie to her room, and after several confessions to each other, they kiss. When she starts touching Charlie on his thigh, he pulls away. The next morning, Charlie says goodbye to Sam and Patrick. Charlie is left emotionally shaken.

Charlie goes to his empty home, having severe flashbacks of his Aunt Helen and her death. Charlie calls his sister and blames himself for Helen’s death. His sister believes Charlie is suicidal and calls the police. Charlie passes out as they burst through the door, waking up in a hospital. A psychiatrist tells Charlie’s parents that he was sexually abused by his aunt. Charlie repressed the memories because he loved her.

Charlie undergoes therapy, recovers and returns home where he is visited by Sam and Patrick. Sam explains what college life is like, and how she has found “The Tunnel Song” Charlie was searching for. The three revisit the tunnel, where Charlie stands in the back of the truck. Charlie acknowledges that he feels alive and in this moment, “We are infinite”.

REVIEW:

I may be a bit long-winded when it comes to blogging and such, but in real life, I am more of a wallflower, so a film like The Perks of Being a Wallflower should be something near and dear to my heart. It would seem that this is based on an extremely popular book. I guess I need to get to reading that one of these days, perhaps.

What is this about?

In this engaging coming-of-age tale based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, a shy freshman struggling with depression deals with his best friend’s suicide and his first love — and finds help from two seniors who take an interest in him.

What did I like?

Get real. Think about every teen movie you’ve seen. Almost every single one of them focuses on the jocks, cheerleader, etc., and they all seem to be focused on sex, drugs, and/or drinking. Thankfully, this film gives a different take on things, showing that these students care about more important things, like relationships and their future. I don’t know about you, but those are a couple of things that were on my mine constantly during high school, especially my senior year!

Save it. The tone of this film doesn’t really change until the end, when one of the characters gets all dark thanks to some repressed memories that surface. For some people, they would have liked for this to have come up sooner, but for me, I was all up for saving something for the end. I mean, you don’t mix chocolate cake with your steak and potatoes now do you? No, you save dessert for the end!

Cast. The young cast is full of star just waiting to breakout, including the likes of Logan Lerman (best known from the Percy Jackson films), Mae Whitman, and Emma Watson (my, my…hasn’t Hermoine grown up?). However, it is lesser known Ezra Miller that is the true shining star and someone who hopefully we’ll be hearing big things from in the future. On the adult side of things, I do believe this is Paul Rudd’s best role since Clueless.

What didn’t I like?

WTF?!? Early on in the film, Logan Lerman’s character mentions that his best friend committed suicide. That is all we hear about it for the entire film. With all the problems this kid has, it seems as if that would have been brought up at least once or twice more, rather than just mentioned as an afterthought. I could be in the minority in thinking that way, but I felt that if they were going to bring it up, then they needed to either go somewhere with it in terms of relating it to the story, or not mention it at all.

Agenda. Given the era that this is based in, I understand that the public attitudes toward homosexuality weren’t the same as they are now (fight amongst yourselves about whether we have moved forward or backwards), but the way the film brought that to the forefront for a few scenes seemed to be pushing some sort of gay agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with alternative lifestyles. To each their own, but there comes a point when it is just too much. Then again, maybe I’m still bitter about how Glee went from a funny dramedy to one that brought up gay every chance it got.

Family. Obviously, the focus is meant to be on Lerman’s friends, rather than family, but I can’t help but think they meant for them to have something more to do. Why else do you cast name actors like Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lysnkey, and Dylan McDermott? Going even further, the flashbacks show something happened with the aunt, but it is never explicitly told to the audience. I’m thinking that should have been something that was brought up with all the family there in the mental institution.

For what it is, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a pretty decent and somewhat enjoyable film that will keep your attention. That being said, I cannot say that I will be going out of my to watch this again. I just wasn’t that into it, but that’s a personal preference. The next person may love it while someone else may despise every second. It is just a matter of personal taste. Would I recommend this, though? Yes, this is a really well-crafted film with few flaws. If you get the chance, check it out!

4 out of 5 stars