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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Fun film made to fit Margot Robbie, but it does work
This film was born because Harley Quinn made it big among the funs of Suicide Squad. As I stated when reviewing that film it was one of the few properly written roles in that film, and Margot who's a superb actress made wonders with it. Combine this fact with the growing popularity of Harley Quinn as a character, and you've got the story of her "fantabulous emancipation" carrying an entire film. Thing is Harley Quinn's emancipation is pretending to be the secondary part of the movie, while the Birds of Prey, a group of female heroins fighting in Gotham seems like the real lead of this film. That's only the title, the moment Harley Quinn was made the story teller of this movie it was clear she's the real lead. Harley as a character can't tell a story in which she's not the lead. So the title is slightly misleading, but all the previews made it clear that this was her story all we had to find out was how much of the movie was left for the Birds of Prey. Truth be told, not much. But enough to make it fun to watch and to wonder whether there's enough here for a new franchise. The three real heroins in this movie are definitely under developed. Most of all the Huntress who's almost an afterthought in this one.

All of this doesn't mean Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor didn't give a superlative performance. same is true for Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain. And everyone else on screen was at least very professional. Must address one point that was made here by some reviewers." All the men are bad", almost true, but remember where the whole thing is taking place. It's Gotham, the most corrapt city invented in comics until Sin City was invented years later, and it's happening in Harley's backyard where the best of the most corrupt come together to play their games. Harley herself is far from a saint and that's part of her charm.

So - go see it, just know in advance what you're about to see. Who knows, it might become a cornerstone of future DC mythology

Knives Out

Some personal points I have to make
Starting with the title, a painful issue here in Israel. Since the title is determined by the distributers of the movie, not by the translators, we here end up repeatedly with travesties such as this. How does one make Knives Out, which is not a precise idiom in Hebrew, but does have a close enough meaning as is, into A Well Written Murder. I'm sorry, but the answer here is beyond me and I suspect there's none. I suppose I should be used to this problem with movies titles, but I never am.

As for the movie itself. It's a good dark comedy, with a stellar cast that justifies its casting. They all perform superbly, most of all Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. But one must also mention Daniel Craig who gets to play a cartoon character, and still manages to come out OK. Every time he spoke, I kept remembering Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot, when he lampooned Cary Grant, pretending to be a made up oil billioner and Jack Lemmon reacted "Nobody speaks like that". Nobody speaks the way Craig spoke in this movie, it was just one more aspect of making him a cartoon, a cardboard cut out for the excentric detectives the Agatha Christie school of detective literature loves so much. Unlike all other characters here, which are cartoons of real people, Craig is a cartoon of literary tradition implanted in the movie. Considering this, he does his job as well as could be expected.

One last point - the political aspect. Yes, one can't understand it without the contemporary beckground, and I think it's a mistake, limiting the movie. But I can also see the point the movie's creators were trying to make - xenophobia and bigotry arn't limited to red necks and to the lower tiers of society. In fact they are much more insidious when practiced by the upper echelons of society. I can see this point, I may even agree with this opinion, but it didn't have to take such a significant role in the movie. Taking the detective literture and satirizing it, may call for barbs directed toward the aristocracy, it doesn't mean it has to sound so much like a current affairs debate on TV. As far as I'm concerned, this was the only fault of this lovely movie, I'd rate it even higher without it.

Frozen II

Too many songs, and too message driven, but nice by any other measure
Let me start by saying I'm much more forgiving when Disney are inspired by classical stories than when they try and retell them their own way. So Frozen and its sequel, are better in my personal book than Mary Poppins, Peter Pan Beauty and the Beast and a few other Disney versions of the classics. But this is just a point I wish to make before discussing the movie itself.

As for the movie itself, it's a nice one, it has some very impressive voice acting performances, with Josh Gad, topping the list, probably because he's written down as a scene stealer to begin with. But all of the other roles of the leading trio are performed superbly. The story is a bit convoluted, and suffers from too many stops for songs, which makes me think that Disney were looking for another Let It Go but couldn't be certain which of the songs will hit the mark so they left them all in. They also had the recent global warming issues driving the film a bit too strongly, so they ended up being a bit too preachy. So here goes 8 stars instead of 9 or even 10. Other aspects of the story are well written, the characters do some growing in front of our eyes, which is nice to see, it even delves into some deep issues of right wrong, fear as a reason for actions and obviously - making peace with nature.

So here we go, a nice movie with some annoying faults, go see it, and make your own judgement.

Last Christmas

How many characters do you really need in a Rom-Com ?
There's a problem with this rom-com. It's short of leading characters. I mean, Emilia Clarke, has a wonderful character written down for her, and she does wonders as Katerina/Kate the girl on the path of self distruction. But she needs a counter part. It's going with the territory, one must have two for a tango and for a rom-com. Problem is, they couldn't write a complete, flesh and blood character to stand against her, so in a manner of speaking they chose the easy way out. You'll have to see the film to understand what I mean, but once you do, I'm sure you'll see I'm right. And it's a big problem here. Since romcom, is the last bastion of male chauvinism in cinema. The last place where male is still the knight in shining armour coming to save his damsel in distress. If the male character is incomplete, flat, you've got a solo tango. And no matter how you turn it, what we've got here is a tango for one. It does have wonderful backup roles. Especially so with Michelle Yeoh, and with Emma Thomson who might be the only one playing this cartoon of a mother and still pulling it off. Everybody else in this movie is so very professional, but no matter what, we're short of a second lead and I'm not sure whether any actor could build a character in this case with the given source material.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Some times sequels do improve on the oriuginal
I remember well seeing the original and feeling it was a big waste, of beautiful setting and CGI, and of a brilliant performance by Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. Because there was no real antagonist in that movie. All the baddies were nothing more than cardboard cut outs, a fault that killed all possibility for real conflict in the film.

It's been fixed here, by all means. Michelle Pfeifer is doing a superb job as the evil and calculating queen. Elle Fanning has grown in strength as an actress combining fierceness and bravery with the innocence she still radiates. (not an easy combination to pull out). And most of the supporting cast does a very professional job. Even the cartoon fairy godmothers from the old cartoon version Disney made way back at 1959 that were so pathetic in Maleficent, were given some more character to work with. And even an inside joke about the color of Aurora's wedding dress.

Dont worry. It's still Disney. There's still forced ending, and certain characters have a total change of heart out of the blue, just because the plot has to move toward the end we all expect. But there's no surprise here, we also knew it was Disney when we got in. So all things considered this is much much better than the original. We might even look forward to chapter three.

Dora and the Lost City of Gold

The right combination of silly, campy and funny woven into fantasy
Having seen the cartoon character for years as my younger relatives watched on, I was curious how can they make it into a movie, and a fantasy movie of all things. Well they did make it into a movie, and not a bad one. It never takes itself seriously, it wouldn't work if it did. But it also makes campy references to its cartoon origins, and if are familiar with these you'll have to smile at them. It also involves a lot of hammy acting, performed superbly by actors being aware of what they're doing, and combined with normal professional acting. It's not an easy balance to maintain, but the movie does it. If you're not familiar with the source material, it's cringe worthy to say the least. In fact you may not last watching it to the end.

So it does have a limited target audience, but if we do count the numbers of kids familiar with Dora the Explorer who grew up into smart aleckish types but still have a sense of humor, it might find enough audience to get by.

One more thing I must mention: the entire story is a take on the Wizard of Oz, with Dora(othy) and her three friends all of whom are a bit of brainy scarecrow, a bit of a cowardly lion and a bit of a heartless tinman and they all look for a mysterious legendary city when they'll get there they know all their problems will be solved. I could elaborate further on the similarities, but this review will get too long for this site.


This should be the launching pad of some brilliant careers
I had hard time believing Mile Joris-Peyrafitte, the director of this brilliant film and Nicolaas Zwart, its script writer have done so little so far. Even Lyle Vincent who's responsible for the amazing cinematography of this move has a relatively short CV. It doesn't show, in fact it looks like the job of some old masterful veteran of the trade. When this superlative trio combines with Margot Robbie, who has already proved herself on screen many times in the last few years and with Finn Cole, Travis Fimmel Kerry Condon and the very promising Darby Camp (who's career is already longer than some of the other names I mentioned here). What we get is simply a very good movie that should serve as launching pad of many Hollywood careers.

I could elaborate on each specific detail of this great movie, but it's so straight forward that I feel all I should do is send you all to the cinema to watch it.

Jessica Forever

So it's beautiful, is that all that matters?
Yes this is a very beautiful movie. Cinematography is superb, artistic design - first class. In fact, all the technical aspects of film making are at their peak. So What!!?? We also get here a confused Christian fable with Jessica a mysterious woman and her twelve orphans. Twelve persecuted, tormented orphans all of whom get to participate in Pieta like scenes over and over again. And that's not all we get, we get loads of pretentious mysticism the idiotic notion that one can equate death with redemption and therefore with love. In other words we get a thematic mumbo jumbo that the director and script writer confused with a story.

It's beautiful, but it's also hollow and pompous and a waste of some obvious talents that did participate in its making.

Nanfang chezhan de juhui

A rare gem of a movie
I don't rate films 10 very often, you can check my rating history and see for yourselves. this one is a rare combination of technical mastery, as manifest in superb chinematography and lighting work, great editing, amazing acting, that is mainly the two leads who really shine all the way through, Ge Hu as the male lead and Lun-Mei Kwei who in my humble opinion has the most expressive poker face I've ever seen. That is as long as she carries her poker face, when the time comes you'll find she does have more than one facial expression.

On top of all that, we get a tight story of a Greek tragedy proportions set in modern china, depicting a dark and un forgiving world that borrows a lot from the classics of Melville. If you remember Melville's attitude to the famous "honor among thieves" you'll know what to expect from this movie too. But do come with an open mind - you'll be blown away.

Doubles vies

Talking heads
As others said it here, this is a very French film. It's also very verbal and very witty, though most of the text is there only as a vehicle for the story itself about the relationships between four friends two of them being a part of the French literary circle, and their wives. The only reason this thing works at all, is the fact that all of the cast oozes charm. One keeps on watching them talking and talking, because they're so very charming doing it, their wit flows naturally. But the truth is that we didn't really get to see here great original story. All we've got here is an endless verbal deluge, delivered with a certain French smile of self awareness, and as I already said, with loads of charm. If that's enough for you, you'll love this film. I found it a bit longish, I thought the director didn't really know how to end it, so he tried a few endings and left them all in, a mistake not suitable for an experienced director. But that's about it.

Kiz Kardesler

You may leave your village, but the village will still stay with you
Good cinematography, good actors, a story that's a bit short on originality, but since the actors as I said are good, with Kayhan Acikgoz as Veysel and Ece Yuksel as Nurhan topping the cast, but not by much. And the good actors carry you through the story, even if it's a story I've seen many times before.

Don't get me wrong, it's an important story, the story of how hard it is to really get away from your village, from the place where you were born. Or in other words, as I said in the title, how your village refuses to leave you, even when you did get away. A story about how your place of origin is more than just a social background. I do wish it was more original, but even as is it's a good movie.

One more point I wish to make: this story is being told in a very theatrical style. Using the actual setting of the village and the harsh nature around as a stage, and maintaining strict loyality to the theatrical unities of time and place. But this is a very cinematic theater, and that's the way theater should look like in cinema.


Don't suspend your disbelief, just don't bring it in.
If the story was making sense, I would've rated this little movie 9 stars easily. But even as is, without making any sense, plot wise, all through the movie, this was loads of fun. A good buddies comedy with all the expected cliche, with jokes and surprises that surprise none, but with real good acting that breathes life into cartoon characters. And I do think that Dave Bautista is very underrated as an actor, he showed some real comic talent as a Guardian of the Galaxy, and he shows it here again, and then some. While Kumail Nanjiani who played the same role he played in The Big Sick, does it with tons of charm, and I never minded actors who play themselves, over and over again. I think, real versatility is a rare gift, but what's really important is being convincing when one plays a role, and not if this role is different from the previous one. And both of the leading actors excel in this department, which is the main redeeming quality of this movie.

As for the other aspects of movie making, it's all very professional. The pace is as relentless as it should be, the special effects are as one expects them to be. Bottom line it's a well done action comedy that will give you exactly what you want from an action comedy, as long as you don't expect too much, like a plot that makes sense.

Stan & Ollie

The dying days of slapstick
It's a wonderful recreation of cinema history, that took place away from cinema screens and cameras. The story of the final tour of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy around the British isles. When they still had enough funs to fill the theaters but already lost the trust of film producers who always care for return investment and profits.

Its a tour de force of acting, by the leading couple. Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, which I always consider under rated, and he proves me right with a superlative performance. The two playing their corresponding wives are also doing wonders with subtle nuances that only film camera can capture (when one lets it). And also worth mentioning is Rufus Jones as their tour manager. As a rule this is a well done movie through and through. Jon S. Baird has a short career, behind him but if he keeps going like this he still has a long one ahead of him. Making sure we see all these subtle moments while still giving us the feeling we're watching something taking place on stage.

But there's one thing I wanted to point out, one thing that made me love this movie to pieces. Again and again it shows us how slapstick is funny on stage, but far from funny when a real heavy suitcase falls down the stairs, or in other words, when it happens in real life to real people. This distinction is so clear throughout the film that I find, it adds a deeper layer to a story about the real life of stage and screen actors and icons.

Avengers: Endgame

How far would you go in order to surprise your audience
Once again I debated with myself, whether I should write a review here. I know most of you won't like what I want to say. I also know with over 4500 reviews already here, most of those who may agree with me, won't even get to see it. It will simply get lost in the sea of fake reviews (paid or otherwise) flooding most of internet sites dedicated to such things. But eventually I decided that keeping what I want to say, in my belly will hurt more. So - here goes:

It's a great film based on a few false premises, some of which I already discussed here more than once. See on my review page what I've written about Infinity War, or Captain Marvel. In my personal book, every time a comics superhero dies, somebody made a mistake he (or she), didn't know how to fix. The control directors and script writers have over this sort of material is un limited. So if people don't like the character, and I mean real people not review writers that have a personal grudge against superheroines, because the actress is Israeli or because she was made too strong. If real people don't like the character, you wrote it wrong. Let's agree, it didn't happen here. People love the MCU characters, they were all beautifully written, and each actor performing them did wonders. They became as real as fictional characters can. So I knew what happened in this movie had to happen. I even wrote so in my review for infinity war. I must admit, I didn't guess the way they'll go about it, but I knew the many franchises, stemming from the MCU couldn't end. It wasn't a secrete, they kept on working on some sequells while working on this movie. And still, they did surprise me (and everybody else too). But, this sort of a surprise, dosn't cut it for me. Let's carry on with the toy box imagery, that the Russo brothers spoke about in their own IMDb interview. Think about going to play with your friend, he/she shows you a boxful of amazing toys, "I love them to pieces" they say, and the very next thing they take out a hummer and break some of them to smithereens. Surprise you? didn't I" yes, you sure did, but you're an idiot. And the fact, the entire movie prooves you're not, is making it even worse.

There's no reason in the world to drive the franchise this way, apart from the ego of the people having all the toys, their stupid wish to surprise us and to proove they really can do whatever they want.

I may have high esteem for their abilities. I have to agree, it was a great movie - I really didn't like it. And all the reasons for the ending we got, that I can think of, are making it even worse.


So it has to be dark, but does it have to be that gory?
I already discussed here,touching what I consider the stupid mistakes in the Avengers Infinity War, what happens when scriptwriters/directors feel their story is not real enough. We saw what they did over there to "make it more real" - I hated it, and I still do. I don't like the solution of Neil Marshall and his script writer, Andrew Cosby, any better.

What they did, is not a new idea, it's used often in sci-fi and fantasy film. Since the story is fantastic, one makes sure the special effects are as vivid and gory as possible. This works fine when it's being used in moderation, but when one has a movie building for the arriving apocalypse, where does one draw the line. How much blood has to flaw from the screen, for the spectators to feel that the apocalypse is real? Does anyone coming to see Hellboy, even wants it to feel real?

And it started so nicely, even before the start when I realized they didn't use 3D for this film, I was sure they didn't go for the "real feeling" having a story so fantastic one can't expect to feel real to begin with. In fact, most of the movie went by and I was OK with what I was seeing. Acting was good, they did make Hellboy a bit too whiny, but I could take it. And then the final 15 minutes or so arrived. I'm not doing spoilers, that's my rule so I'll only say that these final minutes went well above my personal lines. And as I said, well above the needs of the movie. Even the dark sense of humor, which carried the movie so well up to the crescendo bit, dies away, when it's needed the most.

One last point, in favour of the movie - I like what the movie was saying: "a monster is not a question of appearance, a monster is a question of deeds". I simply think they didn't have to spill so much blood to say it.


The Family comics
Yes we already have The Incredibles, in fact, the Fantastic Four in their comics version and even No Ordinary Family, were both a family of super heros, and dealt with the issues of being a family while having super powers. But Shazam is diferent, at least in one aspect. In all the paperback versions of Shazam, which I've read, all of them fairly recent, I must admit, I've seen only one or two copies of the older version, which didn't include the origin story, but it also seemed to point to the same idea of family. Family, as a concept is a matter of choice, not merely a group of people one is related to by birth. And this movie is making this point loud and clear. Even changing the origin story in a way to make this point even clearer. That's why for me this is, as I stated in the title "The Family comics". The whole point of the story is what a family is and what it does to you. That's why John Glover, is Mr. Sivana, after being Mr. Lionel Luther so convincingly in Smallville. There's nothing like a perfectly mean father to point out a good one.

Other aspects of the movie, are more or less all right. I won't elaborate on CGI, as I said more than once it's a mere technical issue by now. Acting is of the highest quality, plot has a few holes in, but it's almost coming with the teritory, of recent comics adaptations. That's why I rate it just 8 stars. Tighter plot, would earn higher rating in my book. The jokes are all right, not always so funny, but I did smile very often when watching it. And for me it's a decent bottom line. Especially since what's important here is the family issue, and that's covered all the way through.

Captain Marvel

So much hate goes on around this movie it becomes a budge of honor
This is a good movie. It has good story, good actors, all around, with the leading couple realy shining through. Namely Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson both build wonderful roles, have great chemistry together, and make us believe them and care for them. You can't ask for more from any actor or actress. There are a few faults in the basic premise, that is, since Captain Marvel is set to be the saviour of the univers, she's made way too powerful, they even make her do a Superman style stunt, which I won't speak about since I don't do spoilers. But that's a fault I already discussed when I wrote my review for the last Avengers installment. As far as I'm concerned the fault was made then, and now they have to live with it. But everything else works just fine here.

And still, there's pouring hate against it. So many people say it's a bad movie, it's bland, boring and I could mention worse names stuck to this movie. And I just saw it, with many others and none complained, in fact they all seemed to have fun. So I was wondering where does all this hate come from, and I can't avoid the conclusion that too many people here feel like they have to fight against the onslaught of raging faminism. As far as I'm concerned, this is so silly I think of all the hate my review is bound to get here as my personal budge of honor.

Botom line: It's a good movie, a good introduction of a superhroine that suffers from a problematic starting point, due to no fault of the creative team of this movie. In fact I'm much more worried thinking how will Avengers Endgame team handle this impossible starting point. But in this case they did all they can, and they came up with a real fun movie.


Well written roles, carry this movie beautifully
To be precise, most of these are well written cartoon roles, and still, though this cartoons are supposedly shallow we get the stellar cast finding in them hidden depth. They all seem to be mere cliche. The busy neglected stay at home mom; the silly infatuated teenager; the sensative son of a gangster; the slick con man that thinks the world of himself; the cantankerous ancient diva; and obviously the clumsy and shy fat girl with a golden voice. Each and every one here is a cliche, but a well written one, and they all get room for growth, and in this little heartwarming singalong, they do grow and they do warm our hearts while doing it.

It's not easy writing cartoon characters and making them human enough for us to care for them instead of laughing from them, but Garth Jennings pulls it off. He gets his stellar cast performing one surprising real life singer after the other. The fact that the actors do sing their songs helps a lot, making each song their own.

At the bottom line it's funny at the right moments and moving at the right moments, even though the story is never really original and never really surprising, it does make us care for every single character on screen, and in my personal book, it's quite an acievement

Alita: Battle Angel

The Art of great movie makers lies in their obsessions
In fact I could say it regarding any great artist. Most of them are obsessed with something, and it shows in their art. But limiting myself to the field of cinema, I'll simply mention Billy Wilder and his obsession with the masks or disguises we humans wear. John Landis and his obsession with the mad world we live in. John Badham and his obsession with people beating the system, often manifested in elaborate machine of a sort. I could carry on with these examples, but the issue at hand is Alita: Battle Angel and the two creative minds behind the film.

First among them is, as far as I'm concerned James Cameron, who wrote the script and produced the film. And if one looks at the first two installments of Terminator (which I consider a single movie seperated into two parts), at Avatar and at this movie the idea of the human soul in the machine and its victory over it shines through. The strength of the human spirit is an issue in most of Cameron's movies, but since I didn't see them all, I will not discuss them here. Also true of Cameron's career is his obsession with complete control over the world he presents in the movie, hence the importance of the 3D technique in Avatar and in this movie.

Personally I don't like Robert Rodriguez as much as I like James Cameron, mainly because I often think that he cares too much for the stunning visuals of his film, and too little for plot and character development. But in this case I think teaming up with James Cameron helped him to get a better balance. This is definitely a visually stunning movie, but the characters are all well written, (at least the leading ones) and the story makes sense inside the borders of the world it presents.

The cast of the movie is mostly superlative, though some of the smaller characters are very superficial, it doesn't hurt the story so much, as their roles are very limited which means that not having a developed character makes sense cinematically. It's hard to pass judgement on the quality of Rosa Salazar's acting as we don't really sea her face but rather her cyborg face designed to look as part of the Manga world from which the source material arrives. Still during the movie it never felt like she wasn't human, or real, and that's quite a lot. The other three real roles in the film are Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Keean Johnson. All three are very professional to say the least.

As far as all other aspects of movie making, I can't find a single fault, it's all done at the highest quality. So to sum it all up, a real good sci-fi about the real strength of the human soul when pushed well above the limits we're familiar with.

The Favourite

Theatrical in the most cinematic way
This historical so called "comedy drama", which I consider a non term (at best I'd call it a drama with comic moments, but I actually consider this a historical satire about the politics and machinations of the British court). I don't care how exact are the historical details, I did check, and the basic historical drama depicted here did take place, and for me that's the only importent question - historically.

Cinematically we get a story presented in a very theatrical style, pointing to the theatrics of politics, and of royal politics. But this theater is a very cinematic theater, we get a very nuanced performance of the three leads, nuances that would often be lost on the stage of theater. And we do get three leading roles here. All three are superb, and the fact that Olivia Colman is written down as the lead is arbitrary in my book. She might have a little more screen time than the other two, (one would have to check it with a stop watch to be certain), but plot wise, both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, are her equals, and Olivia Colman herself has acknowledged it more than once. And as I said , they're all amazing. And actually, this trio makes the movie. I mean, every aspect of movie making is done here at the highest level: cinematography, editing, soundtrack, lighting, - it's all here, but without this trio none of it would matter, they make this story come to life, and they make us care.

One final point, I rated this movie 8 (bordering on 9), it could have been higher, if the point it was making was a bit less subtle. I feel that the final scene did make a point, but it was only half made, almost muted. And in my humble opinion it should have been a bit more forceful. Maybe thats the British understated way, but the rest of the story was fairly blunt, with the acting cast, and most of all the leading trio keeping it British. So I think, such a blunt story demands less subtlety at the finish line.

Mary Poppins Returns

About Disney's possessiveness, and when does it become a problem
Once again you see here the result of a long debate I had with myself whether I should write a review here or not. If you read any of my reviews concerning Disney's movies you'll know by now that I have a very high estim for their professional attitude; for their story telling skills; for their ability to create nuanced characters out of seemingly nothing. On the other hand I repeatedly have problems with their adaptations of literary masterpieces. Because whatever Disney studios adapt, becomes their own, so Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, and Mary Poppins, all get the same very professional gloss. And even worse for me, they all lose their own unique flair. No wonder P. L. Travers, disliked so much the original version. So much of her own book was for ever lost in the galons of charms oozing from the Disney version.

Disney have the right to coat everything they create with their own personal flavour, one may even consider it a sign of their own style. But when their own style is covering creations belonging to others, it becomes a problem. When it completely and utterly buries these creations, it becomes too much for me.

On top of this, in the very specific case we're discussing here, a case supposedly of their own creation, as this sequel was never written by P. L. Travers. What we get is as close to a carbon copy of the original without really being the very same movie. And again, for me, the sin in this case is even worse, because it's a final stamp confirming that the origin of the original is dead and buried. Now the Disney version is all there is. With tons of suger coating, with lovely bits of animation, with a forced ending and with a hint of a blooming romance, as if we didn't have too much of Disney in it already.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Slightly disjointed, not evenly made, but still a fun installment in the franchise
Saw the movie two days ago, and debated with myself whether I had something to say, ever since. It's definitely not as good as the first installment in JKR's new franchise, but it's definitly not as bad as described by some, here and elsewhere. It is, as my title says, slightly disjointed, and therefore can be a bit confusing, but it's not plotless. I've seen the entire film, and did follow the story it told. In fact, I could easily repeat it here - I simply don't do this sort of things.

Thing is, I think I know why it doesn't work as well as the first installment of the franchise. So I decided I'd throw in my two cents. I don't even expect most of you to agree with me. It doesn't work this way anymore. Not on this site. But here goes:

The first problem is, that JKR tried here to tell a story straight as a film script, as compared with the books that preceded the HP movies. Movies don't work exactly like books do. We all know that. Books are faster, and can cover longer time span in a shorter time. She didn't even use the cinematic ploy for gaps in story telling - narration. And personally, I'm greatful she didn't. But the plot is not allways flowing sometimes it even jumps from one point to the other without explaining how it got there. In the books, it was often used when she wanted to insert the real reason later on in the development of the plot. As I already said, movies work differently.

Problem is, the characters didn't carry us from one point to the next as well as they did in FBaWtFT. Why, because unlike Harry Potter and his two friends, both Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein, are portrayed as extremely shy and introvert. Their characters are well built, in fact I consider some of their dialogues to be briliant, but they lack the charisma needed to carry the audience with them, unless the movie is dedicated to them like the first installment of the franchise was. In this one, there are way too many new characters competing with them for our attention and lacking charisma they simply get lost all too often. Here lies another problem, most of the new characters are either too one dimentional or too superficially constracted. One exception is Zoe Kravitz as the tormented Leta Lestrange, but she gets too little screen time to matter. When she does get her screen time she does shine. Another problem is the villain. Unlike many others I don't have a problem with Johnny Depp. He's theatrical, I think the role calls for theatrics. But he can't be as scary as Lord Voldemort, who's always in our minds when we're in the world of Harry Potter. Those who see Grindelwald as an early version of Lord Voldemort, may be right but he's also completely different in nature. He's not a demon, he's in fact very human and in a way more terrifying for it. But the immediate effect must be less scary.

Bottom line: it's not a bad movie, but it does have some problems, and the biggest one is being compared with Harry Potter and with the first installment of this franchise, which was much better.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

E.T.A Hoffmann meets Disney's era of TTT, and comes out fairly well
To be sure, The Nutcrucker and the Mouse King, is a different story. Its villains are straightforward villains, its heroes seem simpler, but like the more famous Danish fairytale author extraordinaire, H. C. Andersen, his artistic fairytales have deeper layers which Disney wouldn't reach, ever. Disney, doesn't stand for hidden depth. It stands for good story telling, good characters, and great artistic design. And we sure get it all in this version of the Nutcrucker. And ever since Enchanted, Disney also stands for what I call TTT - Turned Tables Trend - of Disney's movies, where Disney's grandees decided that in order to join the modern age they must add some sort of a plot twist to their movies. And they did it so relentlessly that I consider it a surprise when they tell a story where the villain is really the actual villain and when the hero's road to victory is straightforward.

As I said it here beforehand this became so ridiculous, that certain movies ended being plainly stupid (Into the Wood), but sometimes they do get their story all right, and then all their strengthes combine well into a charming story. In my book, this one such case. What we got here is a charming fantasy, with the recently required strong female character, that seems to extract some special hate on this site, and I can't understand why. Again, I already said it here, but I realize I must say it again: this is a commercial trend, but the entire movie business is commercial, and other commercial trends didn't get such quantities of passionate hatred.

One last remark, In my personal book, I've never seen Keira Knightley doing a better job. I personally think that the Sugar Plum Fairy over the top character suits her acting abilities to perfection. I heard her saying she doesn't know if she'll ever find another such role. I hope she does, we all deserve it.


For daring to be savage
Once again I break my own rule of not writing review for films with over 500 reviews (that is, over 500 when I write my review). I liked this movie because it dares doing a few unthinkable things for a Hollywood action film. It dares showing, in a manner of speaking some collateral damage. I mean - in so many Hollywood action films bullets are flying all over the place in the busiest streets without a single bystander getting a scratch. In this movie they do get hurt, most of the time we see it off screen, but we see it, the movie acknowledge the fact the innocent lives are lost. For a comics based movie, thats as close to realism as they can (and should) get. Another place where the movie is possitively daring, is in daring to show Venum as the character he was created on the comics, a savage predator, with very little noble emotions or caring thought for anyone other than its own self preservation. The movie does veer off the original comic book story of origin, but it keeps the comics book nature of the beast, and that's a big plus in my personal book.

Other aspects of movie making: let's not speak about CGI anymore, I think it's a mere technical issue, and there'll always be those who say the CGI was lame. It wasn't but it's not a surprise, it's the way it is. The actors are very good, and I liked the fact Tom Hardy gets to play a comic character with his own face. I hated his mask when he was Bane. It was part of the character, but it killed half the potential of real acting in that film. Here he gets to really act, and he's great. Michelle Williams is as charming as ever, and perfect for the role, and Riz Ahmed is a very good villain. Jenny Slate should get more screen time, she's a great sctress, who doesn't get half the credit she deserves.

Altogether, a great, slightly different sort of comic movie, if it wasn't a bit rushed with the convertion of Venum, I'd rate it even higher.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The Jack Black charm works its magic
This is a cute fun fantasy comedy, that works because its stars make it work. Like most fantasy movies of late, it's very CGI driven, but since CGI is by now a mere technicality it's not a problem. Not having any real villain, is a problem and Kyle MacLachlan doesn't get any screen time in which to build his character, but it still works, because the leading trio is wonderful. Cate Blanchett, doesn't need my support, her abilities as an actress are long proven, and she is as good as one expect her to be. The kid Owen Vaccaro, has a nerd a dweeb and a dork written all over him. He simply has the look of the ultimate social misfit, he does have a few off moments but they're hardly noticed because the rest of the cast around him covers for him. And then there's Jack Black. I already consider him an extremely underrated actor. He's one of the rare few who can do buffoonish and cute together and make it flow naturally. In my personal book his most endearing quality is his complete lack of respect to his own image.

Without Jack Black, this is a nice but way too preachy movie about growing up with loss, and about outgrowing loss. With him, all the preachiness is gone, you simply can't take it seriously enough to be preached at. The moment you remove the preachiness, all you're left with is fun, and that's what we got here. A fun fantasy comedy with some added value to boot.

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