Tag Archives: In Theaters

iReview | FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Steeped deeply in mythology the Wizarding World of Harry Potter continues to evolve and expand with the latest chapter of the prequel series unraveling much of what we thought we knew about one fo the greatest wizards of all time!

Appropriately enough FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald begins in the shadow confines of Gellert Grindelwald’s cell! The villain who was revealed in only the final moments of the previous film as played by Johnny Depp is about to make one of the most daring prison breaks in cinematic history! High over the New York Cit skyline of the 1920s, the magic-wielder (with some help from his devotees) escapes his captors, alerting the Wizarding World that the largely menacing Grindelwald is on the loose.

Back in London the Ministry of Magic (along with the rest of the world’s leading magical agencies) are aware the if Grindelwald isn’t immediately captured, their very existence may be revealed throwing the delicate balance between non-magical beings and wizards into chaos. Everyone has agreed, Grindelwald is chasing after one thing — Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). The mystery surrounding Credence, exactly who or what he is, has fallen on the purview of one man, Newt Scamander played by Eddie Redmayne.

Newt is recruited by his one-time teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to locate Grindelwald and intercept the dark wizard, before he can set in motion a plan, but what is Grindelwald really after? As Credence follows the trail of his origins to France, through a series of flashbacks and introduction of new characters, including Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, a former classmate of Newt’s, who as the name would imply has some skeletons in her closet — the name of Lestrange will become darkly connected to followers of He Who Cannot Be Named.

Rowling’s World

The stakes have certainly been raised in Crimes of Grindelwald and the film’s screenwriter J.K. Rowling the creator of this entire mythology, has delivered onto the film’s fandom a story that will far more than sedate this deeper dive into the legends and “lead-up” to the contemporary timeline of the Potter franchise. Director David Yates has become the most visionary filmmaker and most capable mind to elaborate on the vision Rowling has placed on the page. The pair have pushed the envelope in this new chapter, revealing a far more “beautiful” magical habitat.

Even familiar locations, Hogwarts gets revisited in this feature as do some of its more illuminating faculty members, as the story continues to develop and more is explored about the connection between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Fans of the books have known all along that the pair had a far more intimate relationship as paramours before finding themselves adversaries. Now Credence stands between them, a powerful player that holds a secret and may tip the outcome of the pending war in favor of Grindelwald.

In Grindelwald’s defense, he only wants to ensure a future where both magical and non-magical beings can live side by side, but with muggles constantly in a power struggle and threatening to plunge the world into another World War, Grindelwald and his followers may have no other choice but to seat control over mankind, putting witches and wizards at the top of the food chain. Politics have always played into the drama of the Wizarding World, and Crimes of Grindelwald is able to extrapolate those complex themes and give its audience far more than the previous film.

In The End

By the time our heroes confront Grindelwald and finally track down Credence, it appears that everyone has fallen under the spell of the charismatic wizard who is promising a new world order. Demanding his followers spread the gospel, Grindelwald takes on his world be captors on his own, and convinces Credence in the end to follow him! Grindelwald reveals to Credence that he is not a Lestrange as we are lead to believe, switched at birth by a shameful act that has haunted Leta all her life, but is actually the brother of Albus Dumbledore, Aurelius.

Though we’ve never heard of this Dumbledore sibling before, at least not until this moment and what becomes of him in the future, his identity is all but confirmed as he unleashes his miraculous power under the watchful eye of a phoenix — the mystical birds have always been known to present themselves to a Dumbledore especially in their most desperate moment of need — and one has chosen to stand with Credence, even as Grindelwald plans his next steps. The revelation may have come as a shock to the diehard purists, but is very much inline with Rowling’s style.

The author popularized tricking her readership, who had become accustomed to pursuing all sorts of theories all of their own, but if Rowling had down anything especially well during the run of the original release of Potter books and films, it was pulling the rug out from under her fans. This film is far more encouraging than its predecessor proved and in every way promotes what the audience has been hoping all along, a perpetuation of the Harry Potter franchise and revisits into the Wizarding World full of magic and intrigue. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in theatres now and directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law and John Depp. This film is Rated PG-13

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iReview | HALLOWEEN (2018)

Set 40 years after the events of the original, the masked serial killer returns on the fateful night to the scene of the crime, in search of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, the lone survivor of the Halloween massacre of 1978.

In 1978 filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t plan to redefine the horror genre, but set an unprecedented standard with the original Halloween. Produced on a shoestring budget and under a tight 21-day shoot, the story about a serial killer loose on the small town population of Haddonfield, Illinois terrorizing a group of teenagers on the night of All Hallows Eve, turned its aspiring ingenue Jamie Lee Curtis into an instant screen queen and ignited a genre phenomenon that captivates audiences even still today.

In fact Halloween has just been revived — again! The horror franchise that turned its masked murderer Michael Myers into an icon, has actually continuously tracked with 8 sequels since the 1978 film’s release, and a 20th anniversary iteration H20 that reunited Curtis with the mythology she hadn’t revisited since Halloween II (1981) supposedly concluded Laurie Strode’s story. The latest version of Halloween is less a reboot and more a retconning of much of the serialized canon that has followed the franchise (not including the Rob Zombie re-envisions).

Directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBribe, the filmmakers pursued Carpenter’s consent before going forward with their project to resuscitate Halloween and let Michael Myers loose once again. Director David Gordon Green also pulled out all the stops to make sure that Jamie Lee Curtis read the script and even asked a mutual friend, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, to persuade Curtis to seriously consider taking one more trip back to Haddonfield, Illinois on the most precarious night of the season. Getting John Carpenter onboard proved much easier.

The original film’s director and co-creator also provided an updated take on the soundtrack, in particular the movie’s theme that became instantly identified with Michael Myers march.

Halloween Takes Shape

On this night in 2018 Michael Myers (Nick Castle reprises his role as “The Shape”) returns to his old stomping grounds, after escaping from a prison transfer. Myers had been captured and incarcerated for 40 years ever since his first rampage on Halloween that claimed the lives of five teenagers and left Laurie Strode scarred from the experience. Obliterated from canon is the assault on the Emergency Room hospital that is tending to Strode (Curtis) after The Shape’s spree, thus erasing the backstory that suggested Strode was related to the boogeyman.

Myers returns to Haddonfield, and it isn’t long before he takes up some old habits. Laurie, who has become estranged from her family, though her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) has made considerable efforts to bring Laurie out from her self-imposed isolation. Laurie’s grown-up daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer, has given up on her mother’s psychosis and survivalist tactics, but inevitably Laurie’s worst fears are realized and Michael Myers returns! With the help of Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) Laurie begins the hunt to end Myers reign once and for all.

There are several interesting parallels between this version and it’s predecessor(s). The teenagers themselves with the exception of Allyson (the Laurie Strode archetype) are largely unimpressive or underdeveloped. This was a similarly exploited trope of the first Halloween. Both Carpenter and Curtis added a depth and layer to Laurie that guaranteed her survival and made her the film’s heroine. With the auxiliary assortment of mostly annoying characters on the peripherals, it’s easy to watch the body count add up, and not care as Myers goes on his merry way.

The interesting decisions to also cover or otherwise not exploit the kills is also a factor borrowed from Carpenter’s original, which used no blood in the depiction of its murders. It doesn’t make the act any less frightening or shocking, and not all of them are dismissed to the imagination, but in some cases not seeing the dismemberment of a victim is more than compensated by the eventual reveal. Among the most troubling murders though, involves the reporters we meet early in the film, who are physically assaulted by Myers in the confines of a rest stop’s toilet stall!

SPOILER ALERT! We all know how this is going to end, and Halloween (2018) follows the beats per minute of its genre, with little deviation, as is expected, though the doctor played by Haluk Bilginer, (the “new” Loomis) does throw audiences a curve. The film’s final shot is perhaps the most puzzling, as it focuses on the events of the perilous night’s survivors making haste their escape of a burning compound. The family, reunited, huddles closely, looking mostly exasperated and spent, Allyson still appearing in shock clutches tightly to the large kitchen knife still in her grip.

If this is some kind of foreshadowing of events to come, it would be terribly not well thought out, as one might expect Laurie to interject herself (given her experience) to assist with rehabilitating Allyson. If it might predict that Allyson will now become the target of Myers mercilessly primal instinct, then she’d better hold on tight! She might need that knife, if The Shape escapes (once again) the villain’s fate. Without a doubt, Curtis’ return to form as Strobe is spectacular and is just proof at how diverse her skills are, especially to revisit this character and reveal another layer.

The Original Turns 40

In September the original John Carpenter classic was up-converted to 4K Ultra HD, presenting the film in an incomparable high dynamic ranger (HDR) with a wider color spectrum and an immersive audio experience that goes beyond the theatrical Halloween experience. Reportedly the film’s redux was overseen by the film’s cinematographer who carefully took into account the depths of the dark shadows and colors of the fall foliage, making certain the audience has far more to fear as The Shape emerges from the darkness.

With an opening weekend of over 77 million at the box office and breaking records for an October opening for a horror film with a female headliner, it bodes well for the franchise that audience interest is still at a peak, but is Halloween 2.0 in the cards especially given the fate of its psychopathic killer? Is this really the last theater goers have seen of the boogeyman? 

Halloween (2018) starring Jamie Lee Curtis is directed by David Gordon Green and playing in theaters nationwide now.