Bless the Beasts and Wizards (Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald, 2018)

Fantastic_Beasts_2_Crimes_Grindelwald_PosterThe first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had Newt Scamander, witches Tina and Queenie and muggle Jacob trying to save a young but powerful man from being both destroyed by his power and that of being a pawn by a wicked wizard. In the end, it appeared the young man, Creedence, was dead and the villainous Grindelwald was revealed.

The sequel picks up with an action packed escape by Grindelwald before returning to Newt Scamander who is trying to get his right to leave the country reinstated. The Ministry of Magic reveals that Creedence is alive and well.  He is hiding in Paris trying to find out who he really is. He has fallen in love with a young woman. Tina and another Auror trying to catch Creedence (but with different goals).  Jacob has regained his memory and he and Queenie are an item, but after a fight, Queenie runs off to Paris to find Tina, but Grindelwald is in Paris looking for Creedence…confused yet?

I actually quite liked the first film. I enjoyed the introduction of a decent and prominent “muggle” character. I felt the four leads had a nice chemistry. I was sympathetic to Tina’s attempts do things all by the book, but also her sympathy for Creedence in the film.

And yet, this film has none of that. For one thing, there are about twenty separate storylines, separating almost all the characters for a large part of the movie. So, it is all really a mess. And by themselves, some of the characters start to become grating.

The film is full of scenes giving us back story and it becomes super clear from the earliest moments in the film that this is literally all a set up. The film  is more interested in its world building and fan service with origins to characters that never needed an origin. A lot of things feel like they will not pay off until a later film.

The last half hour or so just keeps hitting the audience with twists and reveals…and none of them feel consequential.

I mean, I basically liked Jude Law as a young Dumbledore. But can I say…the most controversial casting of the film was Johnny Depp. And I really do wish the filmmakers had listened to the outcry.  Because, honestly? This is one of the most uninspired and dreadfully dull Depp performances I have ever seen.  It is just lifeless.

This ends up being a lackluster sequel…and I am disappointed to say it did not keep me entertained.

Green Room Serenade (Green Room, 2016)

Green_Room_PosterGreen Room is one of Anton Yelchin’s final films.  The story is simple.  Pat and his friends are in a punk band.  When their show falls through, they get a new gig in a remote club.  They discover it is a Neo-Nazi bar.  When they stumble upon a terrible crime, it is a fight for survival.

Once things start, the film is unrelentingly intense as the band fights for survival, along with a young woman who may or may not be on there side.  The film is full of surprises and the performances are great. Yelchin’s performance as Pat (who starts out a quiet and peaceable young man then forced to fight) is solidly sympathetic.  The absolute stand out is Patrick Stewart.  As the head of the Neo-Nazi group, Darcy, he is unnervingly menacing.  I am used to the kindly and wise characters Stewart has played for over two decades.  None of that is here.  He is cruel, manipulative and lethally skilled.

Imogen Poot’s plays Amber as a mystery.  Is she trying to help the band, or is she actually devoted to Darcy and his crew?

The film takes many twists and turns, constantly giving you hope for success only to have it taken away in a shocking moment.  Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier shows a real understanding for creating tension.  His first feature film, Murder Party was an amusing horror/comedy about a lonely guy invited to a costume party that turns out to be a a group of psychopaths who invite people to hunt and kill.  Using a similar premise of innocents trapped by psychopaths, he trades in humor for intensity.

Green Room is a tense and exciting thriller that keeps the viewer engaged right up to the end.

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