‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ (2016) Review

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (2016) Review: Newt Scamander: Beast Detective 5 years since the last iteration of the Harry Potter franchise, and audiences just couldn't seem to escape the Wizarding World. 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is the latest multi million dollar nostalgia trip in the same vein as 'The Hobbit' and 'The Phantom Menace'. Those films though, came at least a decade after the original franchises. It doesn't seem that long since I left the halls of Hogwarts, but nevertheless, I was happy to be go back, but I'm not exactly happy I went.'Fantastic Beasts' is actually an entirely new story, at least to everyone except author JK Rowling, who takes her first crack at screenwriting with this film. Book fans and movie fans alike can walk hand in hand through the cinema doors, and finally enjoy the film in harmony. Just in time for Christmas. This time, the film follows Newt Scamander. He specializes in the study of the titular fantastic beasts. You follow him as he attempts to recollect his very dangerous, very magical creatures, that have managed to get out of his mystical suitcase, and are wreaking havoc on a 1920s New York City. Newt Ventura: Pet Magician Each of the creatures Newt chases down are thrilling, creative, and gave me the same sense of wonder that was such an important element of the earliest Harry Potter films. It also had much of the…

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‘Almost Christmas’ (2016) Review

Almost Christmas (2016) Review: A Well Cast Bad Ensemble Despite being declared “Most wonderful time of the year”, Christmas has its fair share of critics. Truly, some people don’t enjoy agonizing over the perfect gift, and then spending money on it, for people, that they don’t really care for. That last bit is at the heart of ‘Almost Christmas’, a movie that tries to capture the awkward tension inherent with family gatherings. Isn’t Christmas grand?  For all its attempts at emulating a complex family dynamic, ‘Almost Christmas’ mostly misses the mark. Danny Glover’s Walter is the patriarch of a big family, whose members bring not only their luggage, but all their baggage too. Baggage that seems a little too familiar. There’s the dad that works too much, the sisters who’ve hated each other since they were little. Every character in the film is instantly recognizable, which makes it fairly easy to figure out where everyone will end up when the cameras stop rolling.Predictability doesn’t make or break a film. The most formulaic of films can have several moments that delight and excite. In the case of ‘Almost Christmas’, those moments are few. Much of the humour is reliant on slapstick, like the wacky uncle falling off a roof after trying to fix a broken roof ornament. While hilarious in a cartoon, when it’s a JB Smoove, it’s a little sad, despite Mr. Smoove's well practiced cartoonish expressions. If you find yourself feeling sad more…

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‘Arrival’ (2016) Review

Arrival (2016) Review: Dora For Aliens ‘Arrival’ is what a remake of ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ by Christopher Nolan would be like. Much like that movie, ‘Arrival’ is a film that shows us a more grounded look at the familiar story of alien invasion. The story takes place in Montana, the location of one of twelve alien ships spread out across the globe. It follows Amy Adams as Louise, a linguist who’s tasked with translating the alien language for the US government. No big deal. Just as long as she can do it, before world powers like China and Russia start having more trust issues than Kanye.‘Arrival’ is the latest in a recent crop of hard sci-fi films, like ‘The Martian’, and ‘Gravity’. It’s a story that focuses more on science than fiction. It approaches the subject of alien invasion the way most films treat war and international conflict. Taking its time to develop the story in a believable fashion. It takes the more detail oriented parts that are typically glossed over, and makes them the driving force of the movie. Now for many people, that won’t be very appealing. ‘Arrival’ is very much a slow burn, and its meticulous nature can be daunting if you don’t expect it. Partially because ‘Arrival’ does such a great job at crafting anticipation. Director Denis Villeneuve is a master of modern tension and that’s definitely on display here. Although ‘Arrival’ shouldn’t be classified…

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‘Doctor Strange’ (2016) Review

Doctor Strange (2016) Review: Just Weird Enough 8 years ago Robert Downey Jr. strapped on a high tech red and gold suit and introduced the world to Iron Man. Now, 13 films later, Doctor Strange gives us a movie that continues to expand a universe, that already has gods, aliens, alien gods, and a civil war. Clearly, the heads of Marvel Studios are pushing as much onto audiences until they say when, as Doctor Strange seeks to bring magic & mysticism to the world of the Avengers. You might've thought magic was introduced in the Thor films, but you'd be wrong. Sort of. Despite such a diverse array of genres, perhaps the biggest criticism of marvel films is they feel quite similar. Seen one seen them all, with the origin story formula displayed in ‘Iron Man’ applied ad nauseum to films like ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. I’m of a mind that says if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Plus, similarities among the films could be seen as shameless copying, or thoughtful parallel. It all depends on your mood really.For all that ‘Doctor Strange has in common with the films that preceded it, I found some aspects of it to be refreshing. The story follows Doctor Stephen Strange, a genius surgeon displaying a familiar brand of arrogance. After a car accident leaves his hands unable to be remedied by the medicine he so covets, he travels east to seek the…

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‘Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween’ (2016) Review

Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween (2016) Review: The Horror. Maybe once it was a good idea. Dress up like the matriarch of a black household, hire hard working black actors and actresses, and write stories that appeal to a group of people who’ve historically been under and misrepresented. On paper, everything Tyler Perry does is not only smart, but it’s also important. At it’s best, you have films like ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’, at it’s worst, you have this film.Now I know this review is meaningless. Tyler Perry movies attract the type of loyalty that renders any critical analysis of them moot. They get people to see them no matter how bad it might actually be. Having understood that, I still need to say what this movie was to me. Induldge me, if you will. For Boo, A Madea Halloween, Tyler Perry plays a man at the end of his rope. Unable to tame the feral beast that is his rebellious 17 year old daughter. Despite this, he refuses to lay a hand on her. When it seems she has intentions of sneaking out to a college party she has no business going to, he calls in the sternest hand he knows, his dear Aunt Mabel, otherwise known as, Madea.The first act of the movie, leading up to Madea’s appearance, is palpably grating. How Tyler Perry can be so convincing in the role of Madea, but so tepid playing it straight is baffling.…

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‘The Girl On The Train’ (2016) Review

The Girl On The Train (2016) Review: Gone Girl: Lifetime Edition 'The Girl On The Train’ is a movie, based on a book, that’s about not judging a book by it’s cover. It tells the stories of three women, each at different stages of their lives. Rachael, the girl on the train herself, pines for the life of the youngest woman, Megan. Megan would do anything to escape the clutches of domestication that is so embraced by Anna. The message then at the end of the day is, no matter what you choose to do, you’ll probably be miserable. A lesson learned in 'Revolutionary Road', when Jack and Rose got to live their happily ever never.Now the way it was going, the movie was set to have a strong message about defying the perceived notions of what it means to be a woman, and breaking free of the roles assigned to women by society. Motherhood is no longer the end all be all. Somewhere along the line though, the movie’s message becomes drastically muddled as it goes further down the rabbit hole of a mystery thriller, as one of the three women goes missing.So all right, it’s not a revolutionary film about modern day feminism, it’s instead a noir thriller. But maybe it’s both? Either way, you look at the case and all of its mysteries through the eyes of Rachael. She’s the main witness to the crime but there’s one problem.…

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