Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Movie review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (PG-13) - By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 133 mins
Five years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 comes the first installment of the planned spinoff trilogy from the beloved blockbuster fantasy franchise. Based on the same named school textbook from the original series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place seventy years before Harry Potter even begins. 

Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, author of what is one of the most famous books in the wizarding world. Being a massive fan of the franchise, it goes without saying that I was pretty excited to make a nostalgic return to this cinematic universe that I practically grew up with.
Taking place in the year 1926, Newt Scamander (Redmayne) is completing his project of collecting and documenting a wide variety of magical creatures all across the globe. He intends to record this work in his book, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, sharing what he has learned with everyone else in the wizarding world. Along the way, Newt makes his first visit to New York City, where most of this movie takes place. Before long, a few of his creatures are set loose in the city, leading to a wild series of events within America’s secret magical community.

The best thing that I can say about this movie is that it is actually very unique and original, something that Hollywood has been seriously lacking nowadays. While this is a reboot of sorts for the massive movie franchise, Fantastic Beasts still feels completely different than any of the other Potter films. Not only does it feature new characters and a completely new location here in America, but it also holds a more lighthearted, adventurous tone throughout. This is something that I really appreciated about the movie and it made for a truly fun return to this magical world. I also thought that the acting was great across the board, especially from Eddie Redmayne in his portrayal of Newt Scamander. He brought lots of life and energy to the role as he guided us through this totally new adventure. I would also add that the creature design was exceptional as well with very good visual effects for most of the magical animals. Overall, I would say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a very satisfying return to the Harry Potter universe that any fan can’t afford to miss.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie Review - Trolls (PG) - review by Stephen Signor

Run Time: 1:32

In DreamWorks Animation's first musical film since The Prince of Egypt (1998), Trolls marks the third collaboration of director Mike Mitchell and writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger after Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011) and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015).
The film opens with the trolls escape from Burgentown, home of the troll eating Burgens. Their quest takes them to a faraway place where they believe their safety is guaranteed, but not for long. Anna Kendrick, whom you may remember in the very recent The Accountant, lends her voice to Poppy, leader and happiest troll of them all. Unfortunately, Poppy also happens to be optimistic and quite naive. A decision by her to have a party leads them into a dangerous situation. 
Poppy’s complete opposite is Branch (Justin Timberlake), a cynical, bad-tempered stubborn and basically uncooperative troll with a pension for the dramatic. His character speaks volumes adding to this clever array of circumstances that develop. 

Speaking of volumes, the soundtrack for this film was spot on, using popular tunes from different decades to accentuate precarious and often hilarious situations these creatures find themselves in. Timberlake not only provides the voice, he is responsible for singing and writing a couple of the songs. 

Coincidentally, the music used in this movie and trailer is "Move Your Feet" by the group Junior Senior, whose members, Jesper Mortensen and Jeppe Laursen, also were born in the same part of Denmark, in Thisted and Aalborg respectively.

Sprinkled into this colorful mix of characters is Gwen Stefani, the disc spinning DJ Suki that keeps the party going and loud. Ignoring the warnings made by Branch that the Burgens will hear the celebration proves disastrous. The troll village is invaded forcing Branch and Poppy to leave the security of their home on a quest to rescue the rest of the trolls. The sequences that ensue are hilarious, charming and in sync. 

The use of the troll’s hair to transform characters in given situations is ingenious and reminded me of Fantasia, another innovative film. The bottom line is Trolls provides a level of entertainment that an audience of all ages can enjoy. I am thankful to the original Trolls doll creator Thomas Dam, of Gjøl, Northern Jutland, Denmark. Without his imagination and inspiration in 1958 this film would never had existed.

Friday, November 11, 2016

movie review - Doctor Strange (PG-13) - review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 115 mins

In a cinematic year defined by two powerhouse battles between famous characters and some other great superhero movies comes Doctor Strange, the sixth major comic book film of 2016, but thankfully, one of the most unique to date. This follows Captain America: Civil War as yes, the fourteenth installment in the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe that has three more movies planned for next year alone. 

Benedict Cumberbatch (coolest name in Hollywood) stars as the titular wizard alongside a solid supporting cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton, amongst others. With trailers that gave me the feeling of Inception meets Marvel, I was pretty excited to see what we would get from this fresh, new movie. 

Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a genius neurosurgeon with a bit of an arrogant edge to him. One night, he gets in a brutal car accident, losing so many nerves that he can no longer use his hands. This makes him ultimately useless for his own work, and Strange becomes very frustrated because of it. His relentless search for a seemingly impossible cure eventually leads him to Kamar-Taj, a temple of sorts in Nepal. There, he meets Mordo (Ejiofor) and The Ancient One (Swinton) as his hopeful healing journey soon leads him into a world of mystical arts. Strange eventually finds himself protecting our real world from the threats of whatever lies beyond through the use of his newly learned abilities. 

As confusing as that plot may sound, I thought that these alternate universes were explained perfectly over the course of the film, in a way that reminded me of the 1999 masterpiece, The Matrix. Similarly to that science-fiction classic and even more recently with Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Doctor Strange has some truly genre-altering visual effects work that will most likely change the way that science fiction films are made moving forward. That being said, I think this is the most visually impressive out of all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It also has an origin story that I think is just as good as Batman Begins, largely due to an excellent lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch. All of these things combined make me say that I enjoyed this movie even more than Civil War, making Doctor Strange my favorite Marvel chapter to date and as of right now, the best film of 2016 for me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Movie Review - Inferno (PG-13) - By Stephen Signor

Run Time: 2hrs. 1min.

I’ll dispense with the formalities as Tom Hanks needs no introduction. He may have aged but his acting abilities have not. The same applies to director Ron Howard. Both Academy Award winners have been an integral part of the film’s success. This is Dan Brown’s fourth book of the Robert Langdon's saga but the third one to be adapted for a film. In this installment protagonist Langdon (Hanks) wakes up with amnesia in the heart of Italy. 

A series of action scenes accompany his presence as well as his condition which I thought compelling and believable. I don’t like waiting for action scenes that I know exist somewhere in the plot so this immediate introduction I found pleasing. It also had me on the edge of my seat. These opening scenes are fueled by a mysterious woman in pursuit of Langdon. His escape eminent, he flees the hospital in the company and with the aid of his doctor Sienna Brooks played by Felicity Jones (A Monster Calls-2016). Interestingly, in the book it is revealed that Sienna's actual first name, which she abandoned as a child, is Felicity. In the movie, she is played by actress Felicity Jones.

The timing of Langdon’s slow recovery of amnesia and being drawn into a world centered on one of history's most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante's Inferno, was well integrated with an ingenious riddle that draws him into a world of classic art, secret catacombs, and futuristic science that elevate the plot and keeps it flowing seamlessly, thanks to writer Danny Strong (“Empire” TV series and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay).

Irrfan Kahn’s (Jurassic World-2015) performance left me wondering whose side he was really on; as did Omar Sy, who also was in Jurassic World. Add into this mix Sidse Babett Knudsen (Westworld-2016) and what develops is a collage of motives that eventually gel and make sense.
Composer Hans Zimmer, responsible for the music of all three films, kicks it up a notch to accentuate key scenes adding to what I thought was a well spent two hours watching this film. Of the three produced, this is by far my favorite. 

I was not swayed by the industries competition on the same release date. I recommend movie goers do the same. This is Sony's second best international opening in October. Enough said.