Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David Yates
There are a lot of ways that you can mess up a sequel, but the most disappointing is when the film doesn’t just IGNORE the problems of the first film but actively builds off of them as if they were what we came there to see in the first place. It happened to The last Exorcism (no one cared about the Satanic Cult!), it happened with… well basically EVERY Hellraiser movie (the Cenobites shouldn’t be the main characters!), and it looks like that’s what’s happening with this film; a sequel to a film I enjoyed the heck out of but ended on… that note, and that’s the direction we’re going with. Sigh… I don’t know, maybe there’ll still be enough of the first movie’s cast to keep this form being utterly sunk by the presence of… that guy, but then again I can’t imagine how good the judgement of anyone involved with this could be if this is the guy they want to star in their lynchpin movie to an entire Harry Potter universe. Does this manage to eke out a bit of fun despite being in such poor taste right out the gate, or is it time for someone else to take a crack at the Wizarding World before the original creators cause even MORE damage to the franchise? Let’s find out!!
After the events of the last film, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been under in a magical US detention center and the Ministry of Magic in… I guess the UK (did they ever establish if the ministry in the books was just London, the United Kingdom, or something equivalent to the European Union?) has decided to move him back to London so he can stand trial. Of course they have a very convoluted and whimsical way of transporting this suspected murderer and terrorist which means that he ends up escaping and fleeing to France to I guess gather power and execute the next step in his overly convoluted scheme. If only there was someone powerful enough to hunt him down and bring him to justice! Sadly there isn’t, but Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is still bumming around England after the first movie, so I guess he’ll have to do! He’s been having trouble with his work since the Ministry put a travel ban on him after the events in New York (for reasons I guess?) and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) is trying to help him within his power as an Auror, but Newt’s not much for shady deals and compromises, so he rejects any offer that they give him to… I think join the Ministry or something. Anyway, all this bureaucratic nonsense won’t keep Newt from starring in this movie, especially since Dumbledore (Jude Law) is giving him Main Character Tips and explicitly wants him to fix everything! I think the plan is that if Newt could somehow get to France then he can find Credence (Ezra Miller) from the first movie who by the way is still alive and important for some reason, and only Newt can do this because… reasons. Oh, but Newt needs more than just saving the world from tyranny as a motivation! Maybe if we could throw in some of the characters from the previous movies, we could get this ball rolling. Oh look! Jacob and Queenie (Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol) are back together and he knows about magic again, but Tina (Katherine Waterston) is in France to try and find Credence for the US Ministry, and now Newt’s super into her which is something I really didn’t get from the first movie, but whatever. Newt heads to France to find Tina and I guess Credence, Queenie fights with Jacob and tries to find Tina, and Jacob goes with Newt to find Queenie. There are also subplots involving Newt’s ex-girlfriend and Theseus’s current fiancée Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), Dumbledore being under strict watch by… someone at the Ministry, Credence and his new buddy Nagini (Claudia Kim) who gets maybe three lines trying to find his birth mother, and probably a few other things that just whizzed past me as I was watching this. Can Newt find Tina and Queenie and Credence and Grendlewald and maybe a few Fantastic Beasts before the running time threatens to suck up every remaining moment of my life!? Why the heck did they get Jude Law to play Dumbledore just to lock him in a castle for two hours!? WHO THE HECK THOUGHT ANY OF THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA!?
Murder on the Orient Express and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
I’m hardly what you’d call “well read” as most of my cultural education comes from television and movies followed by people TALKING about television and movies, so while I’m aware that there’s a book out there called Murder on the Orient Express written by someone whose work I should really get around to reading, I don’t actually know what the story is about nor who the killer is which I GUESS would make me the target audience for a slick Hollywood retelling of the story starring some of the most beloved character actors out there… and Johnny Depp. I’m certainly excited to see this as I do love me a good mystery, and seeing a movie is ALMOST as good as reading a book… right? Anyway, does Kenneth Branagh manage to successfully bring the Agatha Christie classic to the silver screen once again, or does the brilliance of her work get lost in the midst of his vision for the material? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the famed detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) solving yet another world class mystery in the heart of Jerusalem and is now ready to take a much deserved vacation to recharge his mystery solving batteries! As luck would have it, he runs into an old friend named Bouc (Tom Bateman) who gets him a ticket on the one and only Orient Express which Bouc is the director of. Sadly for Poirot’s plans of leisure, not only does the train get stuck in an avalanche but one of the passengers (Johnny Depp) comes down with a bad case of MURDER! With only some minor cajoling from Bouc, Poirot begins to investigate The Case of the Stabbed Dude by looking into the pasts of all the other passengers (Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, and Miranda Raison) to see if there’s anything to connect one of them to the guy sleeping in a pool of his own blood. Will Poirot uncover the criminal mastermind who was unfortunately enough to be sharing a train ride with the world’s greatest detective? Just who was the man who got viciously murdered, and what could have motivated someone to commit such an act? Wait… isn’t it a bit TOO convenient that the train JUST SO HAPPENED to get stuck after a murder is committed!?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
Here’s the thing about the Pirates movies. Other than MAYBE the DCCU, it’s probably the most frustratingly simple conceit imaginable that they keep managing to screw up over and over again, so while some people may have a seething hatred for them (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), I find myself disappointed more than anything. Now credit to where it’s due. The first movie is still good, I like a lot of what they were doing with the second film, and I even think the fourth film was a marked improvement over the nadir that was At World’s End. In fact, the fourth film is the closest since the first film of what this franchise SHOULD be which is the cinematic equivalent of pulp adventure books like the Conan stories or John Carter of Mars; a universe comprised of interesting and diverse characters but with stories that can be enjoyed individually. Where Pirates started to screw up (and then self-imploded with the third one) was in trying to focus too much on continuity, MacGuffins, and character motivations that spanned MULTIPLE films; all of which made it almost impossible to enjoy the second and third ones on their own and why the fourth one felt like an okay start to a new direction for this franchise. Will they continue that trend with this new one? Well… probably not considering that Will and Elizabeth are returning to the series which presumably means a whole lot baggage is coming along with them, but let’s find out!!
The movie picks up several years after the events of On Stranger Tides, though more importantly for the purposes of this story, after the events of At World’s End as we have the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (Orland Bloom and Keira Knightley) named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying desperately to break the curse on his father that has imprisoned him as the Captain of the Flying Dutchman. While working for the British Navy, the ship he’s training on crashes face first into THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE (wouldn’t you want to AVOID something named that?) and he’s left as the sole survivor of an attack by the ghostly crew of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem). Now Henry has been looking for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for some time to see if he has some insight into saving his father and Captain Salazar manages to suss this out, so on top of leaving him as the sole survivor in order to spread his legend, he ALSO want him to give Jack a lesson when he finds him; mainly that he plans on killing that guy the first chance he gets. Now after that prologue, we jump to the Island of Massive Coincidences where Jack just so happens to be wasting his days away drinking rum and there also JUST SO HAPPENS to be a woman named Cariana Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who may have the answer to finding the GREATEST TREASURE OF THEM ALL and exactly what Henry needs to break his father’s curse. Oh, and Henry JUST SO HAPPENS to be sent to this island after he’s found by the British Navy because why not. I won’t spoil much more at this point (mostly to keep this mercifully short) but by the start of the second act, Jack, Henry, Carina, and a few salty sea dogs (including Joshamee Gibbs played by Kevin McNally who’s been a staple of this series since the beginning), are sailing towards this mysterious treasure known as The Trident of Poseidon which can possibly break Will’s curse. They aren’t the only ones headed in that direction however as Captain Salazar is after Jack, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is KIND OF after Jack, and some dude from the British Navy (David Wenham) is after all of them so he can throw them in jail. Will Jack Sparrow manage to find this treasure and also avoid the wrath of Salazar who just so happens to have a grudge against him? What exactly did Jack do to Salazar in order to gain his ire, and how far will he go for revenge? Do these movies REALLY need to be this complicated every single freaking time!?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by David Yates
Well DC certainly isn’t about to keep Warner Bros solvent for years to come, so it’s time to dip back into the Harry Potter well and Accio them some of that sweet franchise cash! Now despite the somewhat desperate circumstances surrounding the studio behind this film, there is a lot of potential here as JK Rowling wrote the script for it and David Yates has returned once again to direct. Then again… neither one of them has had much luck with their creative endeavors since the last Potter film, particular David Yates whose Legend of Tarzan earlier this year is one of the many domestic flops Warner Bros has had to deal with in the last few years. Huh. Well I’m SURE none of that is important when it comes to this film which promises to get us all back to waving overpriced wands and repurchasing the book sets once again! Does this latest entry in the Potter Franchise manage to inject some new life to build a new slate of films from, or is this a desperate cash grab form a lot of people who haven’t found a way to move on from this series? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arriving in New York City with nothing more than the clothes on his back and his TARDIS like suitcase full of magical creatures. He’s come to the US in search of yet another magical creature to further his research, yet things start to go sideways once his suitcase’s latch starts malfunctioning which gives some of the more rascally creatures a chance to escape. You’d think that tying a belt around it would solve the issue, but maybe he would need a MAGIC belt and simply didn’t have one available at the time. Anyway, one of the creatures does get loose which is quickly retrieved, but not before a No-maj (the American word for Muggle) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) sees too much as well as Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) who seems to work for the US Ministry of Magic and wants to bring Newt in for questioning. Sadly for all involved, shenanigans ensue and Newt’s suitcase is broken wide open for even MORE creatures to escape which means that he must roam the streets of New York looking for them with Tina and Jacob in tow in an attempt to keep things nice and quiet as well as avoid jail time for all three of them. Of course, that’s not ALL that’s going on here as there seem to be some deeper intrigue involving a REALLY on the nose religious group known as the New Salem Church (subtle) being led by some zealot (Samantha Morton) and there might even be some traitorous players in the US Ministry of Magic that are helping them in their goals of hunting down magic users. Will Newt manage to get his creatures back before animal control either kills them or gets eaten themselves? What exactly is the New Salem church after, as well as those inside the wizarding world who are VERY closely looking at their activities? How the hell did Newt even get mixed up in all this!? HE JUST WANTED TO BUY SOMETHING!!
Alice Through the Looking Glass and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by James Bobin
A sequel to a movie six years after everyone stopped caring about it! THAT’S never gone wrong, am I right? To be fair to Disney, the original film did make an astonishing amount of money (one BILLION worldwide) but this feels way too late to capitalize on whatever moment that first movie had. Not only that, but it was also one of the early 3D films which I’m sure boosted the ticket sales, yet now we’re at a point where people are just sick of the gimmick, so it doesn’t even have THAT going for it. Still, the first movie did manage to be pretty decent and the trailers for this looked very creative to say the least. Can this manage to be a damn fine sequel that just needed a little extra time to fully come together, or is this a naked cash grab for everyone involved? Let’s find out!!
The movie picks up three years after the first movie where Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has spent the intervening time traveling the world as a sea captain for Ascot family’s trading company (I think). She returns to England at the start of the movie to see her mother (Lindsay Duncan) and plan the next trip with the company. Unfortunately, the Ascot patriarch has died since she last returned and the one in charge of the company is his son Hamish (Leo Bill) who you may recall was set to be Alice’s husband in the first movie which didn’t end up panning out. Now that this new guy is in charge (and he has a wounded ego) Alice is not only no longer employed as a sea captain, but for some reason is given an ultimatum to either sell her father’s boat or risk losing her mother’s house. It gets worse when you find out that the mother has been working behind her back to make sure she gets fired so that she would have no choice but to “settle down” as all proper ladies do. Well I’d say THAT’S enough stuff to stress over to make a trip to Wonderland seem like a wondrous vacation, right? She gets led to the titular looking glass by the butterfly Absolem (Alan Rickman) and eventually finds the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) on the other side who is slowly dying and not quite so delightfully mad. Apparently he found a modicum of proof that his family is still alive but no one else believes him so he’s going to slowly die of depression… I guess. Alice has no choice but to go back in time to save the Hatter’s family from the Jaberwacki and has to face off against Time himself (Sacha Baron Cohen) to get that ability. Will she be able to save the Hatter from his battle with depression? What will she learn as she travels back to the glory days of Wonderland, and what must she risk in order to get the opportunity to do so? Does anyone else notice that its’ a lot brighter this time around?
Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie and all the images you see in this review are owned by Funny or Die
Directed by Jeremy Konner
If we’re gonna keep getting subpar dreck like Dirty Grandpa, The Fifth Wave, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we might as well turn to the Internet for all our movie viewing needs… at least until Deadpool comes out, but AFTER that we can probably just hide away until March. So Funny or Die (the premiere site for famous comedians to post YouTube videos not on YouTube) has been secretly working on a Donald Trump movie and finally released it to the masses starring none other than Johnny Depp (the star of such classics as The Lone Ranger and A Nightmare on Elm Street) as the prominent business man in this adaptation of his most notorious literary contribution, The Art of the Deal. Does it manage to give us a satirical yet poignant look at the man who has taken over the public spotlight, or is this just a chance for even more people to jump on the Trump bandwagon before he flames out in the next couple of months? Let’s find out!!
The movie is presented to us as a Made for TV special (found by Ron Howard in a yard sale) that Donald Trump (Johnny Depp) directed, edit, and starred in among other duties he takes credit for that is a somewhat autobiographical tale based on his best-selling book The Art of the Deal (second only to the Bible in number of sales apparently). The framing device for Trump to espouse his philosophy on business as well as tales of his prior accomplishments is a kid who steals a copy of his book from a display and just so happens to evade the security guard by ducking into Trump’s office who takes this opportunity to mentor the boy for an afternoon. It just so happens to also be Trump’s fortieth birthday and his one goal in life (at least according to this movie) is the purchase of the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City from Merv Griffin (Patton Oswalt) who’s not too keen to sell to the big blowhard… I mean brilliant business man. As Donald continues to try and goad Merv into selling, he goes on and on about his accomplishments with accompanying flashbacks and even gets his lawyer (Alfred Molina) to chime in every once in a while to reassure the kid of just how awesome of a life the orange demi-god standing before him has led. Will Donald get his hands on the Taj Mahal before the day is over? Will the kid learn a valuable lesson about business and negotiations along the way? Could anyone imagine a better time to release this than THE DAY that Trump won the New Hampshire primary!?
Black Mass and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Scott Cooper
We’re finally in Oscar season, right? I mean Straight Outta Compton was a huge hit, but this is the first one that Hollywood studios are actually pushing for some Academy nods. We’ve got a big name actor playing a dark character in an organized crime biopic! Hell, the only way it could have more Oscar appeal is if it was set in World War 2! Still, Hollywood doesn’t always get it right when the make big Oscar films (look no further than The Judge from last year) and Johnny Depp has had a PRETTY hard time of it lately (again, look no further than Transcendence from last year). Will this movie be the critical hit that Johnny Deep needs at this point in his career, or will this biopic get lost in the shuffle once the other big films of the season start coming out in earnest? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) who rose to the top of the Boston crime world due to the fact that was an FBI informant and was getting protection from them as he helped them take down the Italian mob. Once the Italian’s were out the way though, Whitey became just as big a nuisance for the city, only HE had a federal organization who was at least somewhat hesitant to reveal their own involvement with him so he ran pretty much rampant for a good twenty years (1975-1995). Presumably the story is a lot more complex with a lot more people involved, but for this movie the main players are Whitey himself, his brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) who was the President of the Massachusetts senate at the time, and John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who grew up with Whitey and became the FBI agent that got him involved as an informant. Needless to say that having these three working together (to some capacity) creates a neigh unstoppable force as each party is protecting the other to some extent and the trio (John less so than the rest who seems to be a SOMEWHAT legitimate politician) make a WHOLE lot of money. The gravy train can’t ride forever though as the rest of the world starts to close in and Whitey’s actions become more erratic over time. Will these men get the comeuppance they deserve, or will they be able to escape whatever’s coming after to them once they take things too far? Well it’s a biopic so you can look up the answers right now, but then why would you want to spoil the fun?