Tag Archives: David Yates

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Review By Philip Henry

Fantastic Beasts Review

Director: David Yates
Writers: J.K. Rowling
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

I was quite worried when the first Fantastic Beasts film was announced. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter books and films, and the slim volume of creatures J.K. Rowling released for charity didn’t seem like the stuff of blockbuster movies; it seemed like they were just trying to milk the franchise for every drop of magic it had. But they pulled it off! The first movie was a fantastic success, not only financially, but creatively. To set the story in 1920s New York with all new characters, but still retain the familiar elements established in the Harry Potter films was a masterstroke, and one I seriously doubt they could’ve pulled off without J.K. Rowling’s involvement. She knows this world inside out, including heritage and back-stories that never made it into the Potter novels.

The first film had a pretty basic setup – a bunch of magical animals escape in New York and they have to be recaptured. This second outing doesn’t have a plot that can be summed up in one line, or even a paragraph, and that’s its main failing.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is like a lot of little vignettes instead of one complete story. There’s no clear task set out for our heroes to accomplish and so the film does feel like it chases its own tail a lot of the time. London and France are added to the list of locations and I’m not sure if this was a good idea or not. On one hand, it does give this problem a more international feel, and so upping the stakes, but on the other it just distracts from the plot as we sightsee around these new locations establishing new rules and characters.

Johnny Depp gives us yet another character with a unique look and he seems to be relishing playing the baddie, but I think it would’ve made him a stronger villain if we’d seen him doing some more nasty stuff. There is quite a disturbing death in an apartment in France, but since he gets one of his minions to do the dirty deed it gives the impression of a general doing what has to be done rather than someone who is truly evil relishing killing.

Jude Law plays the young Dumbledore and though his portrayal bares little resemblance to the wizened old headmaster we all know and love (he hasn’t even got started on that beard yet!), I’m hoping he’ll edge towards something more like the Albus we know as the movies go on. The scenes at Hogwarts give us something familiar to hang this whole story on, but once again these scenes are so badly fragmented at one point I didn’t realise we were in a flashback. This film really does feel like a script made of a hundred post-it notes for things we need to know going forward.

Emotionally I didn’t connect with the characters this time, even the ones returning from the first movie, and I think that’s because this script was trying to run in too many directions at once and forgot that above all we need to care about the characters. There’s a scene near the end which should’ve been heart-breaking, but fell flat with me, and it was simply because we hadn’t spent enough time with these people to care about them.

J.K. Rowling has said there are to be five of these movies, so we may well look back on The Crimes of Grindelwald as the movie that planted a lot of important seeds for what is to come, but I felt they could’ve done that and still gave us an entertaining self-contained story that added to the greater story arc, instead of using two hours fifteen minutes to strategically position chess pieces for what’s to come.

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The Legend of Tarzan (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

LEGEND OF TARZAN

 

Director: David Yates
Writers: Adam Cozad (screenplay), Craig Brewer (screenplay)
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie

Tarzan is a story that has been told so many times in different mediums and inspired versions of the Lord of the Jungle.

In this incarnation Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), has been there, done it and bought the leopard print t-shirt as he finds himself acclimatising to his life back in civilised London as John Clayton III. The Prime Minister played by the brilliant Jim Broadbent who communicates an invitation from King Leopold II of Belgium, to come to the Congo and see all the good things that the King is doing for the natives.

Tarzan has no desire to go back to Africa, but he is persuaded by George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), a U.S. government representative who is skeptical of the King’s activities in Africa and wants to see the conditions on the ground for himself.

It turns out that Leopold’s invitation was a set up and that he King was not making as much money from the Congo’s natural resources as he had hoped. Hence why he sent Captain Léon Rom (Christoph Waltz) to Africa seeking out new sources of income. Rom is looking for some rumoured diamond mines when he runs into Chief Mbonga (Djimon Hounsou) and his warriors.

Unaware of how ruthless the Belgians can be, Mbonga offers Rom access to the region’s treasures in exchange for Tarzan, with whom the chief has a score to settle. Hence, King Leopold’s “invitation”. Upon their arrival in the “Free State of Congo”, Tarzan and Jane (Margot Robbie) reunite with old friends, but their joy is short-lived, thanks to Rom’s cruel plan.

Tarzan, does what he can to help the natives, protect his wife Jane and stop Rom, while Williams does his best to keep up and help Tarzan when he can. The scene were Williams takes a leap of faith into the trees from a great height is a little naff as he plummets on to a log unscathed (Hardly First Blood)

“The Legend of Tarzan” updates the character and establishes who he is while giving us a fresh story with a great supporting cast that was let down at times with the characters being a bit unbelievable.

I wasn’t really sure why Samuel L. Jackson’s character was in the film, other than to set Tarzan on his merry way back to his spiritual home he never served a purpose other than to keep Tarzan company.

Jane Clayton played by on form Robbie had her moments but on the whole was really just leverage for Rom against Tarzan.

Christoph Waltz played the villain (as he does) well even if the character was a little unbelievable.

Visually at times I felt the movie let it’s self down with some of the CGI. Don’t get me wrong the effects aren’t appalling and at no point take you out of the movie. Just sometimes especially with the animals you can “just tell”

I give the makers and the writers credit for trying a different spin on the character and story whilst keeping the origins of the legend intact but the plot is a little over the place at times with flash backs (at one point I wasn’t sure if I was in the present day or a flash back) but if you like Tarzan I would give it a go. This movie burner is in no hurry to revisit jungle anytime soon…a bit like John Clayton III at the start of the movie.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Movie Review By John Walsh

Fantastic Beasts

Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Sam Redford, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

It’s been five years since audiences savoured the magical world of Harry Potter. Long gone is the familiar landscape of Hogwarts, the much loved professors and the familiar characters we all grew to love. In their place is 1920s New York in all its gothic goodness. It’s beautifully dated landscape serving as a perfect backdrop to the continuation of the dark, grittier tone seen in the Deathly Hallows.

Nothing can serve as a better indicator for just how difficult a task JK Rowling, Warner Brothers and David Yates faced when trying flesh out a viable story to kickstart the new franchise than the similarly titled book which helped spawn the latest film. At just 128 pages long, the relatively short encyclopaedia of magical beasts by Newt Scamander perhaps explains why the new film splits into two parallel stories early on in the first act. With very little source material available, they worked wonders in creating a brilliant origin story and introduction into the early years of the Potterverse.

We primarily follow the adventures of the aforementioned Newt(Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist, who arrives in New York with a suitcase that resembles Doctor Who’s Tardis, chock-full of weird and wondrous beasts. Here on a field trip for a new book which he is penning, he soon bumps into the bungling Jakob Kowalski(Dan Fogler), a down on his luck, No-Maj (the US equivalent of a Muggle), who inadvertently switches cases with our protagonist, letting half a dozen of these beasts escape into the city. Together with Porpetina Goldstein(Katherine Waterston), a disgraced Auror, and her mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), Newt and Jakob must try and hunt down the escaped beasts before they can wreak further chaos in the city.

Unfortunately for Newt, this mistake couldn’t have came at a worse time with MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the United States) enforcing extremely strict rules on relations between the magical and non-magical community, whilst also outlawing the ownership of magical beasts. This is further exacerbated with a host of terrifying attacks happening throughout the city and seemingly being perpetrated by a dark, uncontrollable power. This brings us onto darker underlying story of the film.

The film is set in 1926, during the rise of the infamous dark wizard Grindelwald(Johnny Depp). In the opening of the film we see him kill five wizards in cold blood and then various shots of newspapers reporting his mysterious disappearance after his misdeeds. Although we see just a minor cameo at the end, it’s no secret that future films in the series will primarily follow Grindewald’s story and eventual titanic clash with Dumbledore, so it was an exciting glimpse into what lies in the future. With bigger things clearly intended for future films in the franchise.

The CG was consistently excellent, none more so in the consistent wave of destruction created by the Obscurus throughout. Whilst the beasts themselves were beautifully realised and their big personalities really shone through, helping to liven up the slightly duller first act. The antics of Pickett and the kleptomaniac, Niffler, with a penchant for stealing shiny objects provided plenty of laughs and entertainment. And nobody who watches the film will forget about THAT mating dance with the rather strange Rhino like creature. Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of the shy, quirky, oh so Hufflepuff, Newt was wonderful. But it was the performance of Dan Fogler as the hapless Kowalski that really stole the show, with his character bumbling into one misadventure after another and his enthusiasm at discovering a whole new magical world really imitating that of the viewers.

JK, much like what she did with the trio in the Harry Potter films, manages to create a strong quartet in Newt, Jakob, Tina and Queenie that really anchor the film through the various action set pieces in the third act of the film.

An honourable mention must be given to Graves(Colin Farrell), who plays the part of a minor villain well enough, although his reveal as a transfigured Grindelwald at the end was slightly predictable and he never really reached the levels of a Voldemort-esque threat.

Fantastic Beasts offers a very promising beginning to the new series and lives up to the expectations I had for it beforehand. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and have not seen this film then I strongly recommend watching it. It has lots of little nods that will delight fans of the series and even if you’re not a fan, but would like to see a good, solid fantasy, action/adventure film then I would also recommend it.