Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I will say the same thing about this movie that I said about its predecessor. The Fantastic Beasts themselves are lovely, and it’s amazing to see them on the big screen, as well as Eddie Redmayne’s fantastic performance as Newt Scamander.  Scamander loves these creatures, and operates better with them than he does with people.  As for the rest of the movie, it’s cluttered, choppy, complicated, and feels like a lot of filler between the first one and the next one.  Let’s see if I am capable of summing up the plot.

The Crimes of Grindelwald begin with Gellert Grindelwald in American wizard prison, after he turned out to not be Colin Farrell in the previous movie.  However, it seems he wasn’t in prison – or he was, but his henchman looked like him? In any case, he escapes during his transfer from America to England, and heads to Paris.  Meanwhile, Newt Scamander is hanging out in England, collecting and caring for Magical Creatures while writing a book on them.  His older brother Theseus is trying to get him to come work at the ministry with him so that he can get his travel ban lifted and they can go after Grindelwald in Paris. As much as Newt wants the travel ban lifted (he wants to meet back up with the lady he fell for in America, Tina), he won’t work for the ministry.  Theseus and his lady love Leta Lestrange, who is clearly more into Newt, are preparing for their mission while a young Albus Dumbledore, who is teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, meets up with Newt and begs him to go to Paris as well.

Apparently, Grindelwald is in Paris to get Credence Barebones, because his Obscurus parasite is super powerful and can kill Dumbledore, and Dumbledore is the only thing standing in Grindelwald’s way of ruling. At least, I think that’s his plan. He’s attempting to unite multiple people to his cause, and is being very successful, but believes only Dumbledore will stand in his way.  Dumbledore tells Newt pretty much the same thing, but admits he cannot do anything about it and it has to be Newt. It seems that when they were young, Grindelwald and Dumbledore were in love (this is not stated in the movie, it’s just strongly insinuated) and made an unbreakable vow that they would never fight each other.  So, Grindelwald needs Credence to defeat Dumbledore, and Dumbledore needs Newt to try to ‘save’ Credence. 
If this all seems very complicated, please bear in mind that I have not yet mentioned how Queenie enchanted Jacob, and is slowing getting entranced by Grindelwald’s message.  Leta is having some serious guilt issues because it’s hinted that Credence may actually be her long lost brother, even though she knows that is not possible. And her half-brother Yusuf Kama has vowed to kill Credence for destroying his family.  And, on top of that, there’s the introduction (or maybe re-introduction?) of Naigini and the surprise (spoiler) appearance of Nicolas Flamel.

Look, it’s all very ridiculous and you need some serious notepads to keep track of everything and everyone.  Again, the best parts are Newt interacting with creatures, and while there are quite a few (The Zouwu is amazing), there are not enough.  There is far too much standing around talking about bloodlines, families, and whether magic folks should be ruling non-magic folks.  David Yates has done multiple Harry Potter movies, and two of these, so he definitely has a feel for them. His Harry Potter movies always felt choppy to me, but I always assumed that was because he was visualizing a book, and so had to cut out a great deal.  Here, however, there’s no book – just original material written by J.K. Rowling.  The cast is certainly entertaining, and does their best with the material at hand.
  • Eddie Redmayne is wonderful as the ‘better-with-animals’ Newt. He’s charming and pleasant, but also capable of action when needed. 

  • Dan Fogler plays Jacob Kowalski, Newt’s buddy from America. After the events of the first movie, his memory was supposed to be wiped, but that didn’t take, so he’s now traveling with Alison Sudol’s Queenie.  

  • Alison Sudol plays Queenie, and as she realizes her community won't let her be with Jacob, she gets more and more drawn in to Grindelwald - who is promising her she can be with whoever she wants. 

  • Katherine Waterston plays Tina Goldstein. At this point she’s become an auror, and is traveling on mission. She mistakenly believes that Newt is engaged and is holding that against him. This introduces another entirely new subplot of Newt having to tell her what she means to him and also clarify that he is still single.

  • Ezra Miller plays Credence Barebone who now has control over his Obscurus, and is single-mindedly pursuing the truth about his birth parents. This starts the subplot – or perhaps main plot – of his learning that his mother gave him up shortly after his birth and sent him to America to keep him safe. But who was she?

  • Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange, who might win the subplot challenge. She has the clear subplot of being in love with Newt previously – and seemingly still is; as well as the subplot about her family, and if Credence is or is not her brother, and then a sub-subplot of what happened to her brother and what that had to do with her!

  • Callum Turner plays Theseus Scamander. He’s part of the ministry, and genuinely wants to help his brother, even though he does not understand him. That could have been a subplot, but it’s not really dived into any deeper.

  • Claudia Kim plays Nagini, a Maledictus, carrying a blood curse that will eventually turn her into a snake permanently, and have some dude stash part of his soul in her.

  • Jude Law plays Albus Dumbledore, and you can see the twinkle in the eye that will be carried over into Michael Gambon’s version of the character. He’s clearly very strong, and determined, but also hampered by his previous affection for Grindelwald.

  • Johnny Depp plays Gellert Grindelwald, and while I think we can all agree that we are suffering from the overexposure of Johnny Depp – he’s just fine in this. Grindelwald is supposed to be this incredibly powerful dark wizard, who is gifted with the ability to be a charismatic leader.  He can talk anyone into following him and appreciating his cause. If you were to ask me what that cause is in this movie, I’m not sure I could clearly articulate it. He seems to want magical folk to rule non-magical and stop living in hiding.  A little like Deacon Frost in the first Blade movie.

  • Brontis Jodorowsky plays Nicholas Flamel. Incidentally, Flamel was a real person born in 1340 in France. He was quite an alchemist, and rumor had it, found the Philosopher’s Stone as was able to achieve immortality, even though he apparently died in 1418 (that’s only 78, not immortal).  His story is used as the background of the first Harry Potter story. 

  • There’s a brief moment where Jamie Campbell Bower and Toby Regbo reprise their roles as young Grindelwald and Dumbledore, they were both in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.

Overall, the movie is just fine, and for the fans who are absolutely entrenched in the Wizarding World – they know the families, the bloodlines, the items, the side characters, this movie will be perfection.  I found it to be a little cluttered and disjointed, but entertaining nonetheless.
6 out of 10.
I am looking forward to the inevitable showdown between Depp and Law - that could be very interesting.
Cast Interview Fun:

Monday, November 12, 2018

Movie review: Bohemian Rhapsody (PG13 – 134 minutes)

I first became aware of Queen when I fell in love with the 1986 movie Highlander. It has always been one of my favorites, and a lot of that is because of the music.  That carried over into the Highlander TV show.  

There have been a lot of rumors of a Queen or Freddie Mercury biopic for many years. Supposedly Sacha Baron Cohen was close to portraying Freddie Mercury, but left the project after clashing with the remaining members of the band about how certain aspects of his life should be depicted.  Cohen wanted to delve deep into Freddie’s sexual ambiguity, and the band wanted to focus on the music.  Ben Whishaw was also mentioned as a possibility, but finally Rami Malek took on the project, and Bryan Singer began the direction (he did not finish), and the movie approached the finish line.

Bohemian Rhapsody follows the story of Queen as they form in 1970 when Farrokh Bulsara joins the former members of Smile, Brian May and Roger Taylor to form a new group.  Together, they pick up bassist John Deacon, and start touring as Queen.  Forrokh changes his name to Freddie Mercury, and the band begins to pick up steam as tour and record, gaining popularity through their energetic live performances.  They create a lot of different sounds, making a point to try everything.  Eventually, Freddie develops some standard ‘front-man’ syndrome symptoms and they have a falling out.  Freddie gets caught up in his solo career, drugs and alcohol and a shady business manager.  Eventually, Bob Geldof wants Queen to come perform at Live Aid in 1985, Freddie gets a visit from his best friend Mary, and realizes it’s time to turn everything around.  He reconciles with the band, looks up his love Jim Hutton, comes out to and reconciles with his family – all just in time to perform an incredible set at Live Aid. 

Now, if you are a fan of Queen, there is no new information in this movie.  I did not have a problem with that, honestly, I was mostly there for the music.  Yes, it is definitely a bio-pic and not a documentary.  Certain timeline things are shifted around to provide for the most cinematic drama possible.  Freddie had already known the guys prior to joining the band, there was no meet-cute in the parking lot after one of their shows.  While the band bickered, they never fell apart like in the movie – in fact, they had been touring together up to two months prior to Live Aid.  And, apparently Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis years after Live Aid, not just before as the movie depicts.  I don’t really have an issue with those shifts, it is a movie, after all, and they help the flow. 

The movie is listed as being directed by Bryan Singer, however, he did not finish the movie. Apparently, he was late several times, sometimes not showing up at all.  He stated it was family health issues, but when Rami Malek took exception to it, they had several fights. Dexter Fletcher came in to finish the picture. Even with that, the movie is perfectly serviceable with a decent cast.
  • Rami Malek does an incredible job of portraying Freddie Mercury. The swagger and stage presence is incredible, but even more incredible is the self-doubt and loneliness once he was off-stage. Malek is impressive, and while the fake teeth are a little difficult to deal with at first, you get used to them.

  • Lucy Boynton plays the love of Freddie’s life, Mary Austin. While Freddie was far from straight, he genuinely loved Mary, and she stayed his close friend and confidant until the end of his life - apparently she is the only one who knows the location of his ashes.. Boynton does a good job of being enthralled, then supportive, then frustrated, and finally accepting.

  • Gwilym Lee plays Dr. Brian May, (he does have his doctorate in astrophysics), the flip side to Freddie’s coin.  I loved his portrayal as mostly on board with Freddie’s crazy, sometimes perplexed, but mostly grateful.

  • Ben Hardy plays drummer Roger Taylor. He is also wonderful as another member sometimes perplexed by Freddie.
  • Joseph Mazzello (yes, the kid from the original Jurassic Park) plays bassist John Deacon. As with the other band members, he doesn’t get as much to do, but I really enjoyed the scene where he first plays the bassline to Another One Bites The Dust.

  • Aidan Gillen shows up as John Reid, the band’s manager for a very long time. He does what he can to ensure their success until Freddie fires him.
  • Allen Leech plays Paul Prenter, Freddie’s personal manager.  The movie portrays him as a man who fell in love with Freddie early on, and then resorted to various levels of villainy to keep him to himself.
  • Tom Hollander plays Jim Beach, the band’s lawyer who steps in after Reid is fired.
  • Mike Myers has a lovely cameo as a fictionalized record executive. He’s there to tell you that kids will never be able to bang their head while listening to Bohemian Rhapsody in their car.  Oh, the irony.

Some of the criticism of the movie is that it is a very ‘sanitized’ version of the story. Yes, Freddie’s rampant sexual history is touched on, but not deeply. The movie hints that he was into drugs, but that is never really shown.  Freddie died in 1991 of AIDS-related complications, and was the first major celebrity to die of the disease.  He kept his diagnosis secret for years, in fact only admitting publically the day before he died.  He never wanted to be ‘poster-child’ for the disease, he just wanted to keep making music.  I know the remaining members of the band are very careful to preserve Freddie’s legacy, and make it more about the music than the various levels of debauchery that were present. I did not have a problem with that, and did not mind this PG13 version of the story - also, I personally enjoyed the amount of attention paid to Freddie's cats.  Framing it around the performance at Live Aid was a good choice, and makes sense in the context of the story. 

If you like Queen, check it out. If you know nothing about Queen, know that this is a movie, not a documentary, but it is definitely enjoyable.

7 out of 10 – The music is fantastic. Also – keep an eye out for Adam Lambert’s cameo in the front as the flirty truck driver.

Curious how well Malek did?  Check it out -