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Fantastic Beasts: the five crimes of Grindelwald

One of the great mysteries of the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was how a movie that gained rave reviews, an ‘A’ CinemaScore and crossed the $800 million milestone came to be considered ‘lacklustre’.

Still, I doubt the studio are wringing their hands. Twitter and Youtube were buzzing when the teaser trailer for the next movie – The Crimes Of Grindelwald – was released last week.

If he’s going to be sinning against the magical world, what crimes can we expect Gellert Grindelwald to commit?

Escape custody.

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Obviously. We don’t know how much time has passed since Newt managed to outsmart Grindelwald and deliver him to the wands of MACUSA’s Aurors, but judging by his long hair, he’s been captive for a few months at least.

Apparently audiences groaned when Colin Farrell’s disguise vanished to reveal a bloated and bleached Johnny Depp.

Following his rushed reveal, hair and makeup have worked their magic, casting a Revelio charm on Depp’s cheekbones. Grindelwald needs a hell-raising rock star vibe, and Johnny Depp fits the bill perfectly.

End Madam Picquery’s incompetent reign of smugness.

“Do you think you can hold me?” Grindelwald asked MACUSA’s useless, smug and incompetent Madam Picquery, giving her a contemptuous stare down.

She refused to accept her city had an Obscurial problem, and didn’t notice her right-hand man was being impersonated by the world’s most wanted wizard – all while lecturing European officials for letting him slip through their fingers.

Picquery ignored Tina’s pleas when she apprehended Newt on his arrival in New York, yet later claimed outrage that she didn’t tell her straight away. She had them both arrested, before the pair were nearly executed by Graves/Grindelwald.

I’m surprised more fans didn’t pick up on Picquery’s Fudge-like incompetence. She’s definitely arrogant enough to think she could challenge an escaped Grindelwald.

Kick Newt Scamander’s head in. Again.

If I were a bumbling, animal-loving Brit wanting a quiet life – which I am – and I had thwarted the evil plans of a deranged dark wizard, I would stay as far away from that individual as possible.

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We adore him: Magical bigwigs are terrified Dumbledore will make his own power play

Except Dumbledore is clearly a hard man to say ‘no’ to. “I can’t move against Grindelwald,” he tells Scamander in the trailer. “It has to be you.”

Last time Newt encountered an enraged Grindelwald, the wild-eyed dark wizard pinned him to a railway track and tortured him with Sith lightening.

Newt should have been airlifted by Thestral to New York’s version of St Mungo’s. Somehow – and this is a symptom of the badly rushed final showdown – Newt was fine in seconds.

In the cinema you had to strain to hear Grindelwald’s parting words to Newt: “Will we die just a little?” It was probably ad-libbed by Depp when he couldn’t remember his lines. He meant to say “You’re going to die, little British Hufflepuff weedling.” Gulp.

Corrupt Credence Bowlcut some more.

While Newt crashed around looking for his missing critters, the international threat of dark magic bubbled away like a cauldron in the background.

A third plot line saw teenage orphan Credence Barebone wreak havoc as an Obscurius. Cowering in fear of his religious, witch-hating adoptive mother, Credence was groomed and brutally rejected by Grindelwald, before the dark wizard realized the boy’s raw destructive power.

Don’t expect Credence to be transfigured into a sunny character any time soon. It’ll take more than a new life with the circus and the motherly(?) attention of a fellow performer to turn that Obscurial frown upside down.

Grindelwald looks like he has his Bellatrix Lestrange – Vinda Rosier (played by Poppy Corby-Tuech), from one of Britain’s ancient and prestigious magical bloodlines.

Will he will try to recruit young Credence again? What side will Credence choose?

Mass slaughter for the greater good.

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Hands off my Niffler!

‘For the greater good’ is Grindelwald’s philosophy and his justification for his actions in the wizarding war. Yet ‘Crimes’ is only the second movie in a franchise that will span a 19 year timeline, so it’s unlikely we will see Grindelwald do his worst yet.

Potterheads will know most of the main cast are safe. Little is known about Newt’s brother and his enigmatic fiancée, Leta Lestrange, played by Zoë Kravitz, but it seems unlikely that such promising characters will get bumped off too quickly.

Grindelwald will probably target Muggles, but personally, I’d be more worried about the magical creatures.

Newt’s beasts could be in serious peril this time.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out 16 November this year.

New to streaming & DVD: Wind River lingers like a chill…

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I wish I hadn’t watched Wind River on a Saturday morning. It’s an evening movie; when it’s over, you can lock your doors and hopefully not have nightmares.

That’s the unsettling effect Taylor Sheridan’s latest had on me. I’m currently working through some of the most buzzed-about movies of 2017, and of course this was something I wanted to see.

Sheridan’s screenwriting career so far has given us the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, and the Denis Villeneuve-directed Sicario, which starred Emily Blunt as an idealistic FBI agent helplessly mixed up with shady alphas Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro in the war on drugs.

In Wind River – Sheridan’s first time as writer-director – Elizabeth Olsen’s Jane Banner is another FBI agent out of her depth, this time not in Sheridan’s native Texas but in the wintry wild west of Wyoming.

Jurisdictional matters have dragged Banner in to investigate the death of a teenage Native American girl, who was found frozen and barefoot in the snowy tundra by Jeremy Renner’s quiet wildlife officer, Cory Lambert, for whom the case has disturbing echoes of his own grief.

Technically Olsen is in charge of the investigation, but with his deep connections to the land and to the dead girl’s marginalized community, the story belongs to Renner’s softly-spoken cowboy as he supports the outsider FBI and the tribal police.

Olsen is not completely robbed of agency like Sicario’s Kate Macer, yet she has no backstory, and we never learn what makes her so driven.

She looks like she should be reading the news in a warm studio somewhere, as she is comically underprepared for the conditions and isolation (‘Shouldn’t we just maybe wait for some backup?’ she bats her lashes. ‘This isn’t the land of backup, Jane … this is the land of “you’re on your own.”‘)

Where Macer was caught at the border by political forces beyond her control, Banner plants face-first into a community blighted by poverty, addiction and hopelessness. I wasn’t sure if she was merely incompetent and inexperienced, or if she was truly meant as a symbol for governmental disinterest and mishandling.

The violence, when it comes, is more personal and depressingly universal, but no less brutal and shocking.

Verdict? Despite the shaky camera triggering my vertigo, I thought Wind River was another well-made action thriller. Renner and Olsen are great, but I don’t feel that the movie is as ambitious or exciting as Sicario, perhaps because it lacks the tension and moral conflict between the leads.

Sheridan really stands out for his dialogue, and as auteur he delivers on a similar level to previous directors of his scripts, especially in the realistic-yet-stylish bursts of violence, and that creepy sense of dread that outlasts the film.

Blogger Appreciation Award

Last month, I was nominated for the Blogger Appreciation Award by the Green Onion Blog. How cool is that? Very Cool.

I would like to extend my thanks to the G.O.B AKA the blogging superhero Green Onion for this award. I love all things green and oniony.

Spring is finally on the horizon and hopefully the allergies that have wiped me out for the last few weeks will ease. Until Hay Fever season at least…

Now, I think I’m supposed to write a few things about when and why I started my blog. Briefly – I started this blog a little timidly in 2014. I had no idea what to write about, just that I had always wanted a creative career.

Last year I finally had the confidence to start blogging more regularly. I’m still a bit reticent, but I’m finding my voice at last. I’m not in a position to give any advice exactly, because my situation is of course very unique to me.

But if you’re lacking in confidence, take your time. (Or dive right in, what do I know?!) Eventually you find your niche and make new bloggy friends along the way.

This brings me to the fact that this award is an opportunity for bloggers to share a little appreciation around.

This is difficult really – I’m sure I’m not big enough or influential enough to really boost smaller sites, and I don’t want to pester busy bloggers with yet another award nomination. So I would just like to say that I appreciate the incredible knowledge and hard work of all the bloggers I follow, including The Green Onion Blog, Captain’s QuartersJason’s Movie Blog,  Raistlin0903, English Language Thoughts, & Oliver’s Twist and too many others to name!

REVIEW: Manchester by the Sea

Faced with the prospect of going to see Manchester by the Sea, I wondered if I’m a serious movie fan at all. When it’s freezing out, wouldn’t I just be happier staying in and watching Bridget Jones’s Baby?

Well, at least the cold weather helped make Kenneth Lonergan’s Oscar buzzy movie about bereavement immersive.

In a wintry Boston suburb, depressed janitor Lee Chandler has his guilt-ridden life existence interrupted by the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), forcing him to return to his hometown of Manchester-by-the-Sea to look after his teenage nephew Patrick.

Like another Oscar contender, Jackie, it’s a movie all about planning a funeral, except here the ground is too hard and cold to bury the dead. Flashbacks show old Lee as a boisterous man married to Michelle Williams (another tear-jerking performance as a working-class mother for the actress!)

We learn that the couple have a shared tragedy – a tragedy that means Lee can’t remain in Manchester. This causes tension with the nephew, played by Lucas Hedges. I don’t know how Kyle Chandler came up with this kid, or how the little charmer gets all the adoring girls.

Hedges is otherwise fine (one cringe-worthy crying scene aside) as a selfish teen who doesn’t want his grimy-looking life uprooted, and who happens to be bound to an emotionally closed-off, inarticulate time bomb.

Lee is aggressive, tightly wound, numb. I didn’t go into Manchester rooting for Affleck, but the performance had an authenticity that the likes of Gosling wouldn’t have had. I don’t know if it’s the kind of indelible, undeniable performance that justifies the awards sweep (before Denzel’s SAG triumph turned the Best Actor competition into a two-horse race).

It’s not overwhelmingly bleak thanks to its well-observed humour, but it’s far too long – whether it’s a bona fide masterpiece or just another well-made Sundance indie.

Top movie performances of 2015!

It was a triumphant year for movies. Specifically, it was a benchmark for female-driven stories. Although I confess I’m still catching up, this is my tribute to the best performance(s) of 2015!

Alicia Vikander

How can you not admire Vikander?

She’s phenomenally talented. She’s acted in English, Danish and her native Swedish and she was in some of the best and most anticipated films of 2015.

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There was creepy sci-fi gem Ex Machina, where she played Oscar Isaac’s android invention Ava, her robotic brain whirring as she plotted her escape from her creator’s clutches.

She was heartbreaking in a moving adaptation of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s memoir of the war that wasn’t over by Christmas. Vikander is the unashamedly emotional lead in a story about a generation of doomed young men and the impact WWI had on women.

Then there’s Oscar bait The Danish Girl, where she plays the supportive wife of Eddie Redmayne’s Lili, one of the first transgender patients in the early 20th Century. Advance buzz and a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress suggested it was no mere beautiful suffering spouse gig and that she matched Redmayne.

  • It’s a safe bet that her performance will make her an Oscar-nominee, although whether it is for supporting or lead remains uncertain. I don’t mind so-called category fraud. Supporting seems like a wasteland, with unexceptional performances gaining recognition as a courtesy because they’re in an Oscar contender, when they’d get ignored in anything else. If Vikander is at a disadvantage in the super competitive Best Actress race, put her in supporting.

Rooney Mara

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Although Cate Blanchett is great in everything and Carol is no exception, I found Mara’s portrayal of numb young shop assistant Therese resonated with me more.

She falls in love with Blanchett’s assured and wealthy eponymous character and they begin a relationship. Considering this is set in 1950s America, it’s complicated.

Despite a very restrained performance, Mara expertly communicates Therese’s messy raw emotions, her shyness and uncertainty.

“I barely even know what to order for lunch,” she nervously admits on her first date with Carol.

(Spoiler alert) Her love for Carol helps her discover who she is, her place in the world and a more fulfilling life. Mara deserves every award coming her way.

Adam Driver

My first reaction to news of Driver’s casting in Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn’t negative. I only knew him from the Lena Dunham-helmed Girls, so let’s just say he wasn’t on my radar.

So there’s something I have to thank J.J Abrams for – Driver is my new favourite actor. To stand out in a cast that good is a feat. Hope to see him square off (round off?) with BB8, and see which one of the two new Star Wars divas comes out on top.

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I’m watching everything Driver has done, although I haven’t managed to face Girls yet. (Dunham’s memoir is going cheap on Amazon Kindle though. Might make some good post-holiday reading!)

Daisy Ridley

The new Star Wars heroine was a revelation.

I’m probably not the only one who looked at Ridley’s resume and awaited a Natalie Portman clone who would give a wooden, half-assed performance like the one Portman gave in…Attack of the Clones.

There was no way Abrams was having a repeat of that. Ridley was superb casting and made the most of the opportunity.

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And…

There are so many performances I haven’t been able to see yet! I’m dying to see Emily Blunt in Sicario, Brie Larson in Room and Saorise Ronan and Domnhall Gleeson in Brooklyn.

Who impressed you with their performances in 2015? Do get in touch in the comments below!