Review / Crimes of Grindelwald ★★½

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Directed by: David Yates
Starring : Johnny Depp,  Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Zoe Kravitz, Ezra Miller

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a perfectly enjoyable movie, while it did have the charm & development of the Harry Potter franchise, it still worked well enough to provide a solid foundation to the adventures of our magical animal keeper, Newt Scamander. With the news that the Fantastic Beasts series will now span 5 movies, did concern some. Having to span the entire narrative over five films could dilute the end product, and unfortunately, it seems the sequel, Crimes of Grindelwald, is already feeling that influence.

The story picks up following the arrest of our villain from the last film, Grindelwald (Depp), as his transfer to the UK from the States is inevitably botched, and manages to escape to Europe, to start his own uprising. Credence, the estranged yet powerful orphan, managed to survive the events in New York, is the vital pawn in tipping the balance of power towards our villain. It’s down to Scamander (Goodmayne) to track down Credence before it’s too late.

What made the first film such a joy were the vibrant scenes , escapades of Newt, and all the various magical beasts that he interacts with. How he uses the animals to further help his own objectives was a nice change from simply using magic. The hidden world within his suitcase opened us up to a world outside of the iconic Hogwarts. Unfortunately, in this chapter, Newt is pretty much on the bench, and probably down in 4th in order of importance to the plot.  There are far too many subplots all going on in the film, Grindlewald, Credence and Leta (Kravitz) all have far more significance to the grant story. There’s also the Dumbledore, Queenie and Nagiri arcs, which simply creates a convoluted tangle of tales.

Even with all these story lines occurring, and a run time of over 2 hours to fit it all, it all still feels so dull! This has the feel of a political drama, rather than a magical escape. The finale of the film revolves around a political rally, thrilling! The entire Lestrange story really goes nowhere, and it could have been entirely removed, and would make no difference to the overall story. Which raises huge concerns, considering it was a vast chuck on the plot. To cap it all off, the final at the end, raises some serious inconsistencies, which will leave hard core Potter fans dumbfounded.

The interactions between Newt and Jacob (Fogler) are still as great as the first film, their chemistry really gives their characters a likability that a large majority of the cast simply don’t. Their journey and confrontations with the beasts are by far the strongest parts of the film. Sadly, Newt feels like an after thought, playing a support role to the grander scheme. Jude Law as a young Dumbledore is also rather good, and brings some charisma to a role mostly associated with an old respected scholar. The Hogwarts scenes also bring some nostalgic charm to the movie, and reminds us why the franchise is seen so fondly by many.

There is still lot’s of potential left in the series,  the magic and fantasy aspects are still there, and as part 2 of 5, things will drag on in some the films. Now that the ground works are well and truly set, hopefully the next release sees more of the fantasy, and less of the politics!

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Murder On The Orient Express / Review

Featuring an incredible cast, and an intriguing source material, can the latest adaption of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express thrill audiences, or will it run out of stream?

This is in fact the 4th adaptation of the classic novel across various forms of media, though this is by far the most extravagant vision of the story yet. Kenneth Branagh , who also directs this film. Takes up the role of Hercule Poirot, the world famous detective, who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and stumbles into another case, while he takes the lavish Orient Express back to London. With a carriage full of suspects, it’s down to Poirot to find the culprit, before the police take matters into their own hands.

The strongest part of the movie is by far the stellar list of actors that are involved with this project. An ensemble cast featuring the talents of Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley & Michelle Pfeiffer to name a few. Each of them playing their characters as well as you would expect. Poirot is of course the star here, and while Branagh does a pleasant job with our master detective, he does have a few comedic moments, which feel a bit forced at times, bumbling, a trait he really didn’t need for this.

Alongside the cast, the period setting works excellently. From the hustle & bustle of the streets of Istanbul, to the divine elegance of the Orient Express, it all looks sublime. The film is also filled with several well shot scenes, such as the tracking shot as Poirot strolls through to his carriage, or the interrogation scenes, which are shot through the cuts of window glass, a very polished movie. It is a tad heavy on the CGI, but it still looks pleasing to watch, especially the scenic Alpine sections of the trip.

The cast & setting aside, Murder on the Orient Express does have its share of issues. The pacing of the movie feels very uneven. While the first half of the film moves along at a serene pace, its well into the movie before the murder occurs. After a bit of investigation, the case is suddenly all wrapped up. It does feel like the ending was rushed, a longer more drawn our investigation would have been far more satisfying to watch. The murder should have taken place in the first half hour or so, then spend rest of the time analyzing and building up the suspects for a bigger reveal.

The mystery to it all is also fairly straight forward, it’s not before long you can figure out yourself what’s going on, and put the pieces together. For a master detective, you would have hoped the conundrum would have been a bit more cerebral, to display why Poirot is so highly regarded.  The film is a like for like copy of the novel, and you can see where it has hurt this movie, a few changes could have been made to make the original source far more captivating for the current audiences

Murder on the Orient Express is a perfectly fine film to watch during these cold chilly winter months, it’s not the most enthralling mystery and the pacing is slightly off. But with its distinguished cast & colorful

environment, it’s most certainly worth a watch.

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