Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald review

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD

Director : David Yates
Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Brontis Jodorowsky
Genre : Adventure/Fantasy/Drama
Run Time : 134 mins
Opens : 15 November 2018
Rating : PG

The Wizarding World gains a new wrinkle as writer J.K. Rowling takes us deeper into the happenings that far preceded young Harry Potter’s enrolment at Hogwarts. It is 1927 and leaving off the events of the first Fantastic Beasts film, magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is still being reprimanded by the Ministry of Magic for his involvement in the chaos in New York the previous year. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), Newt’s former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, entrusts him with a special mission: find and defeat the treacherous wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), with whom Dumbledore has a shared past.

Grindelwald’s agenda of Pureblood wizard supremacy and complete control over the non-magical population requires one special ingredient: Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who is off in search of his identity. Newt, reuniting with MACUSA Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Queenie’s boyfriend Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), must get to Credence before Grindelwald does, as Grindelwald amasses more support for his dangerous ideology.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald takes the flaws of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and amplifies them. While the first Fantastic Beasts movie was ostensibly a whimsical monster movie about a tweedy textbook author who is flung into a larger-than-life adventure, The Crimes of Grindelwald is on its way to almost entirely dropping that pretence, pushing this line of films further into the tangled back-story of the original Harry Potter series. Director David Yates and screenwriter JK Rowling return, and The Crimes of Grindelwald does feel like a part of the larger Wizarding World, but it also seems designed to frustrate and annoy the Potterhead faithful and casual viewers alike.

While Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was far enough removed from the main line of Potter lore for neophytes to hop on to, The Crimes of Grindelwald dives head-first into reams of back-story, such that characters are trying to catch their breath while delivering exposition. Many issues with the storytelling can be traced to how this is movie #2 in a planned series of five films, meaning the usual frustration that comes with watching the second movie in a trilogy is multiplied. There aren’t just a few loose ends left untied, this is a two-for-one loose end sale.

The film’s glaring faults aside, fans of the Wizarding World will find plenty that’s charming about this movie, and it will be hard to not be moved by the film’s brief sojourn back to the Hogwarts grounds, a stop by the Great Hall included. Production designer Stuart Craig’s sets are beautiful creations, the French Ministry of Magic a particularly elegant locale. Colleen Atwood’s costumes for the earlier film nabbed the designer her fourth Oscar win, and Tina gets to sport a particularly sleek leather coat this time around. James Newton Howard’s sumptuous score conjures up memories of John Williams’ work on the series, while stopping short of feeling like a copycat. Alas, much of the visual effects work, especially on the creatures, continues to feel synthetic, making us pine for that animatronic Basilisk from the end of Chamber of Secrets.

While the first film planted the seeds of Grindelwald’s looming presence in the magical world, the sequel places him front and centre. No longer a shadowy threat, Johnny Depp is all over this movie, his casting having led to much uproar. Even leaving aside the domestic abuse allegations that make Depp’s presence in this film cast a dark pall on the rest of it, his Grindelwald just isn’t magnetic or menacing enough. The character is meant to be a seductive populist who cleverly veils his hateful creed in shrewd warnings of Muggle arrogance and self-destructiveness. Depp may have residual star power, but he falls dramatically short when he’s supposed to carry this film.

It is comforting to see Newt, Tina, Jacob and Queenie again, but the returning characters must make a little room for new ones. Zoë Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange, a former flame of Newt’s and now involved with Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), is an enigmatic character who has lots of dramatic potential but gets short shrift. Similarly, Ezra Miller’s conflicted Credence, who proved one of the most interesting parts of the first film, shows glimmers of power, but his story is purposefully incomplete.

Jude Law’s appearance as a dashing young Dumbledore is one of the film’s big selling points, but his screen time is necessarily brief. The crucial relationship and later falling out between Dumbledore and Grindelwald is hinted at but not expounded upon. Callum Turner is bound to become Tumblr’s new boyfriend and the sibling rivalry between Newt and Theseus is fun, but borders on feeling extraneous.

One of the other controversial aspects of the film, casting South Korean actress Claudia Kim as the human form of the snake Nagini, proves to be more fuss than it’s worth. The problematic implications are there, but the inclusion of Nagini contributes practically nothing to the story.

There is another review with the headline “with The Crimes of Grindelwald, J.K. Rowling has hit peak George Lucas”. While that is a bit hyperbolic, the comparison isn’t without merit. There is obviously plenty of care taken in further crafting the look and feel of the Wizarding World, but as the film piles on the reveals and gets lost in doling out fan-service, the movie clearly buckles under its own weight. Now to wait for three more of these and it all might make sense then.

 

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

For F*** Magazine

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 

Director : David Yates
Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight
Genre : Adventure/Fantasy
Run Time : 2h 13min
Opens : 17 November 2016
Rating : PG (Some Disturbing Scenes)

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-posterHow exciting can a film based on a textbook be? If the textbook’s about all manner of magical creatures, pretty exciting. It is 1926 and magizoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne), future author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, arrives in New York. When several animals escape from his briefcase, Newt runs afoul of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), headed by President Seraphina Picquery (Ejogo). MACUSA’s director of security Percival Graves (Farrell) is tasked with capturing Newt. Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Waterston), a former MACUSA agent, aids Newt in tracking the creatures down. Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), a non-magic user or No-Maj, is inadvertently drawn into the fray, and falls for Tina’s telepathic sister Queenie (Sudol).

In the meantime, anti-wizard sentiment in the U.S. is mounting, with the New Salem Preservation Society (NSPS) gaining ground. The hate group is led by Mary Lou Barebone (Morton), whose adopted son Credence (Miller) bears the brunt of her abuse. Mary Lou petitions newspaper magnate Henry Shaw Sr. (Voight) for his support of the NSPS. Henry’s son Henry Shaw Jr. (Josh Cowdery), a U.S. senator, is attacked at a rally by an Obscurus, a sinister parasitic entity. As the wizarding is under threat from all sides, Newt and his newfound allies must restore order to a city flung into mayhem.

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This spin-off of the Harry Potter franchise is intended to expand the film series into a cinematic universe known as the Wizarding World. While we’ve all grown wary of cash-grab franchise extensions, there’s no rule that says they must be devoid of artistic merit. Director David Yates and screenwriter J.K. Rowling are no strangers to the Potterverse – he directed the last four instalments in the series and, well, she created the whole thing. It is a savvy move to make Fantastic Beasts a period piece, giving it a markedly different setting from the Potter films with which we’re familiar. Instead of being a direct prequel, it’s mostly removed from the narrative of the boy wizard and his family history, meaning this serves as an ideal jumping-on point for neophytes and younger viewers who didn’t grow up with the Potter books or films.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-colin-farrell-and-eddie-redmayne

The world-building on display in Fantastic Beasts is meticulous, benefitting from Rowling’s detail-oriented tendencies. Newt experiences some culture shock, and there are little touches which demonstrate how the Brits and Americans do things different. For example, non-magic users are called ‘Muggles’ in the U.K., but are referred to as “No-Majs” across the pond. The 20s New York setting, just before the onset of the Great Depression, is well-realised and immersive. There’s a scene set in a wizard speakeasy and an action set-piece set in the Central Park zoo. We watched the film in IMAX 3D, and the stereoscopic effects are satisfyingly plentiful. James Newton Howard’s score envelops the viewer, and there’s some playful jazz weaved in.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-eddie-redmayne-and-thunderbird

The titular beasts are plenty of fun, and spectacle isn’t in short supply here. The Niffler, part-badger, part-pangolin and all kleptomaniac, is an adorable mischief-maker. The rhinoceros-esque Erumpent sets the stage for an inspired moment of physical comedy, and Newt has his own Baby Groot in the form of a shy plant-like creature called the Bowtruckle. Newt’s struggles in wrangling the creatures are entertaining, and many of his interactions with the animals are endearing. The visual effects, supervised by Tim Burke and Christian Manz, are extensive and generally impressive. However, this reviewer would like to have seen more practical animatronic creatures mixed in with the computer-generated ones. While Yates does a fine job, we couldn’t help imagining what a director like Guillermo del Toro would’ve created.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-nsps

Rowling alludes to the classic film Citizen Kane with Voight’s newspaper owner character and his senator son. Unfortunately, this subplot is under-developed and doesn’t sit cohesively enough with the main plot of Newt’s adventures. The NSPS, with its cult-like nature and cruel matron, is clearly Rowling’s reaction to the religious groups who called for boycotts of the Potter books and films because of their supposedly Satanic content. Newt mentions how he finds the MACUSA’s laws against marrying or even befriending No-Majs to be retrograde. While we appreciate the social commentary and the attempts to give this whimsical fantasy some real-world grounding, it’s not particularly subtle.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-eddie-redmayne-and-katherine-waterston

Redmayne is a wonderful fit for this franchise. He seems most at home in period films, and it’s easy to buy him as a tweedy, earnest academic. Redmayne also proves adept at acting against things that aren’t there. As a markedly different type of female lead than Emma Watson’s Hermione Granger, Waterston turns in an appealing, low-key performance. Sudol gets to ham it up a little as the coquettish flapper. Fogler has been a low-rent Jack Black or Seth Rogen for much of his career, but this reviewer enjoyed him as the comic relief sidekick/audience-identification character.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-colin-farrell-and-ezra-miller

While the Harry Potter franchise boasts an abundance of colourful supporting characters, those in Fantastic Beasts don’t quite measure up. Farrell’s Graves is the Inspector Javert-type, not unlike his character in Minority Report. There’s a bit of a spin put on things, but perhaps it should’ve been played with more panache. Miller’s Credence is meant to be at once sympathetic and creepy, which he does fine. Ejogo’s Picquery is the equivalent of a police chief on a procedural show, and Voight is woefully underused.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-dan-fogler-katherine-waterston-alison-sudol-and-eddie-redmayne

Fantastic Beasts has enough to offer fans who span the spectrum from “this is kinda interesting” to “legally changed my name to ‘Severus Snape’”. While its story isn’t spectacularly riveting and its social commentary is on the nose, it features likeable lead characters and entertaining spectacle. At 133 minutes though, it is about 15 minutes too long and lapses into multiple endings. It has been announced that there will be five films in the series, but thankfully, this Fantastic Beasts doesn’t do an obnoxious amount of sequel-baiting. Keep an eye out for a certain A-lister as a certain key player in Potter lore.

fantastic-beasts-erumpent-dan-fogler

Summary: This new chapter in the Wizarding World caters to devotees and newcomers alike, even if the setting is more interesting than the story itself.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

The Danish Girl

For F*** Magazine

THE DANISH GIRL

Director : Tom Hooper
Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard, Sebastian Koch
Genre : Drama
Run Time : 120 mins
Opens : 7 January 2016
Rating : R21 (Mature Theme)

An adaptation of David Ebershoff’s 2000 novel of the same name, The Danish Girl tells the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first known people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It is 1926 and Lili, born Einar Wegener (Redmayne), is a landscape painter married to portrait artist Gerda (Vikander). When a model is late, Gerda has Einar stand in for her, wearing the model’s stockings and shoes. This unlocks Einar’s lifelong identification as female, and he begins to cultivate the persona of “Lili”. Gerda’s portraits of Lili attract the attention of the art world and she is invited to stage an exhibition in Paris, and Gerda tracks down art dealer Hans Axgil (Schoenaerts), a childhood friend of Einar’s. Hans’ attraction to Gerda establishes a complicated love triangle as Gerda struggles in supporting Einar’s transition into a woman. Eventually, Lili and Gerda seek the help of Dr. Wanerkos (Koch), who performs a two-part sexual reassignment surgery that is unprecedented and risky but is Lili’s only hope.

            Playwright Lucinda Coxon adapted The Danish Girl and the screenplay made the rounds for a decade before the film finally got made. The subject matter made it something of a hard sell, with Charlize Theron, then Gwyneth Paltrow attached to the role of Gerda opposite Nicole Kidman as Einar/Lili. Tomas Alfredson was initially set to direct, then was replaced with Lasse Hallström before that incarnation fell through. Director Tom Hooper of The King’s Speech and Les Misérablesbrings an awards contender pedigree to the project – it’s a bonus that star Redmayne is fresh off his Oscar win for The Theory of Everything. The film may be called “The Danish Girl”, but just as there was nary a French accent in earshot in Les Misérables, everyone in this movie sounds very English indeed. It can be seen as pandering to Academy voters, who seem to equate Englishness with prestige.



            While first stepping out in public as Lili, Einar worriedly asks his wife “am I pretty enough?” The Danish Girl is a film that does seem to be worried it isn’t pretty enough in a self-conscious manner, but cinematographer Danny Cohen, costume designer Paco Delgado and production designer Eve Stewart, all Hooper’s collaborators from Les Mis, ensure it is quite the pretty movie to look at. Any way one slices it, there was always going to be controversy surrounding the film, and it is incredibly difficult to appease everyone where the hot-button issue of gender identity is concerned. In a way, the period setting is a costume that lends a non-traditional story a more familiar guise, all of this prestige picture classiness a way in for audiences who might otherwise be clutching their pearls at the thought of a movie about a transgender woman.


            This brings us to the elephant in the room: the casting of a cisgender man to play a transgender woman. Transgendered actors are slowly gaining more visibility via projects like Orange is the New Black, but it seems we’re still some ways off from having a trans woman headline a mainstream awards contender film. There’s also the matter of drawing attention and scrutiny, plus the danger of typecasting. More cynically, the Academy loves physical transformations, and Redmayne has already bagged one Oscar after undergoing a physical transformation to play a real person. It’s difficult to talk about but it’s a conversation worth having and we’re trying to take a balanced view. Redmayne put a great deal of thought into the portrayal and spent time with trans women including activist Paris Lees, who gave Redmayne her blessing. “As a trans woman, I don’t think that if and when they make a biopic of my life I would want a cisgender man playing me,” Lees told Out Magazine. “Politically, it makes me groan. But if anybody’s going to do this justice, then I’m happy it’s Eddie. We had a good chat about everything.”

            The hype surrounding Redmayne’s portrayal is worth buying into, because this is an excellent, soul-baring performance. Lili’s emotional journey in coming to terms with her gender identity is eloquently conveyed by Redmayne. When the film is in danger of getting swallowed up by the larger issues at play, his portrayal pulls it back to a remarkably humane sensitivity. Vikander is just as worthy of praise and there is a good deal for her to sink her teeth into with the role of Gerda. This is a woman who sees the man she fell in love with slowly vanish, but her selfless love for him makes her want to see her husband arrive at a place where he is happy and comfortable with himself. Vikander’s performance is at once raw and measured, and if there was any doubt that she is 2015’s biggest breakout star, The Danish Girl erases said doubt once and for all.



            The Danish Girlis based on a fictionalised account of Lili’s life, with most of the characters besides Lili and Gerda created from whole cloth by Ebershoff. As such, both Whishaw and Schoenaerts can sometimes feel like hangers-on in the proceedings, but in addition to Gerda, their characters reinforce just how vital the support of a loved one is in undergoing a transition.

            The Danish Girldoes over-romanticise and simplify Lili’s story a fair bit, side-stepping Gerda’s possible bisexuality and the eventual dissolution of Lili and Gerda’s relationship. The final scene also contains a visual metaphor that is heavy-handed in quite the cringe-worthy manner. However, Lili’s story is an important one to tell and there is considerable talent behind this biopic. The more jaded might dismiss this out of hand as shameless awards bait and it does possess those elements, but above and beyond all that, the genuine emotional resonance of the story rings true.

Summary: While not as challenging and in-depth an exploration of Lili Elbe’s life and times as it could have been, powerful performances and technical polish make this a worthwhile telling of a moving story.

RATING: 3.5out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong 

87th Academy Awards: A Birdman In the Hand is Worth Two In The Bush

For F*** Magazine

THE 87TH ACADEMY AWARDS: A BIRDMAN IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH

By Jedd Jong



The 87th Academy Awards took place on February 22nd2015 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) and The Grand Budapest Hotel bagged four wins each, with Whiplash clinching three. Both Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were the most-nominated films of the evening, with 9 nods each.
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the ceremony for the first time. Having been the master of ceremonies at the Tony Awards four times and at the Primetime Emmys twice, NPH is no stranger to strutting his stuff in front of showbiz A-listers. His opening number, titled “Moving Pictures”, was a joyous tribute to cinema, the lyrics weaving in references to everything from The Godfather Part II to Basic Instinct to Back to the Future as well as all the Best Picture nominees that night. The song was penned by Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the pair behind the songs in Disney’s Frozen. Anna Kendrick, clad in her Cinderella gown from Into The Woods, joined Harris for a duet, working in a spoilerific jab at his role in Gone Girl. The two were interrupted by Jack Black in full Tenacious D mode, Black giving voice to critics of the Oscars and the current state of movies in Hollywood.
For most of the show, Harris’ joke delivery style was that he knew the lines were silly and revelled in it. A notably painful pun was his introduction of presenter and Best Actress nominee Reese Witherspoon: “This next presenter is so lovely you could eat her up with a spoon.” Hur hur. The claws did come out for a few more digs – after the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour clinched the Best Documentary Feature prize, Harris mentioned that the subject of the film “could not be here for some treason”. “American Sniper focuses on a soldier with 160 kills, or as Harvey Weinstein calls it, a slow morning,” Harris quipped, referring to the notorious producer.
For a parody of Birdman, Harris pretended to be locked outside his dressing room, running onstage wearing only his underwear before declaring “acting is a noble profession”. The bit paid homage to the jazz drums soundtrack of Birdmanas well as Whiplash, with Whiplash star Miles Teller drumming backstage, Harris jokingly interrupting him with “not my tempo”. An extended bit in which Harris drew attention to his Oscar predictions being kept in a locked box, repeatedly reminding Octavia Spencer to have her eye on said box, was not so successful. The pay-off was that the envelope contained humorous recaps of the happenings at the ceremony which couldn’t have been written before the ceremony began, allowing Harris to show off a spot of magic. Harris also drew flak for cracking a joke about the “balls” that decorated Best Documentary Short Subject winner Dana Perry’s dress – right after Perry dedicated her win to her teenage son who had committed suicide.

There was no shortage of emotional moments during the acceptance speeches. J.K. Simmons, winner of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a hellish music teacher in Whiplash, showed a much softer side than he did in the film, exhorting “if you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive, call them. Don’t text, don’t email. Call them. Listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you.”
“I’ve heard it said that winning an Oscar means you live five years longer. If that’s true I want to thank the Academy because my husband is younger than me,” Julianne Moore quipped after winning the Best Actress Oscar for her role as a professor fighting early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in Still Alice. Many feel this is a long-overdue victory for the prolific actress, who also paid tribute to Still Alice directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. The co-directors are married and Glatzer is battling ALS, which likely inspired the honest, moving depiction of illness in Still Alice.  
Eddie Redmayne took home the Best Actor statue for his turn as physicist Stephen Hawking in the biopic The Theory of Everything. The English actor was visibly and quite endearingly flabbergasted. “I’m fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man,” he said, dedicating his Oscar to ALS sufferers around the world. “It belongs to one exceptional family, and I will be its custodian and I promise you that I will polish him, and wait on him hand and foot,” he said of the shiny statuette. For many who had pegged Michael Keaton to win for what is being called the role of his lifetime, Redmayne’s triumph was something of an upset, though not completely unexpected.
John Legend and Common, taking home the Best Original Song award for “Glory” from Selma, spoke on racial harmony in the United States. “Once a landmark of a divided nation, the spirit of this bridge now for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or social status. This bridge was built on hope and welded with compassion,” Common said, recounting his experience performing the song on that same bridge in Selma, Alabama on which Martin Luther King Jr. marched. When Legend stated the United States was the most incarcerated country in the world, an awkward cheer came from an unidentified member of the audience.
Patricia Arquette, named Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mason’s mother Olivia in Boyhood, brought attention to wage equality for women. She proclaimed, “To every woman who gave birth, to every citizen and taxpayer, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women of the United States of America!” Meryl Streep reacted by pumping her fist in the air. Arquette also mentioned the ecological sanitation charity project she is involved with.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, named Best Director for Birdman, tempered the serious with the funny in his acceptance speech. “Maybe next year the government might impose some immigration rules on the academy. Two Mexicans in a row is suspicious,” he quipped, in reference to good friend and fellow Mexican Alfonso Cuarón’s Best Director win for Gravity at last year’s ceremony. Speaking about Mexican immigrants in the US, Iñárritu added ”I hope they can be treated with respect of the ones who came before and built this incredible immigrant nation.” Commenting on the competitive nature of awards ceremonies like the Oscars, he said true art and individual expression “can’t be compared or labelled or defeated because they exist, and our work will only be judged by time.”
Of course, the ceremony had its moments of outright, unabashed fun. The LEGO Movie may have been shut out of the Best Animated Feature category and it lost Best Original Song to “Glory”, but the flick based on those colourful construction toys made its presence felt with an exuberant live performance of “Everything is Awesome”. The immensely catchy ditty was sung by indie pop duo Tegan and Sara with musical comedy group The Lonely Island. They were joined by break-dancers dressed as construction workers, while dancers dressed as cowboys and spacemen handed out Oscar statuettes made out of LEGO to audience members – including a particularly thrilled Oprah Winfrey. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh had a keyboard solo, Questlove of The Roots was on drums and Will Arnett put the cherry on top by performing as Batman, complete with the Bat-symbol on his costume built out of LEGO bricks.
The other notable musical performance of the night was a tribute to The Sound Of Music, performed by Lady Gaga and a string ensemble. Julie Andrews took to the stage afterwards to thank Gaga and speak about the tremendous legacy of the film, which commemorates its 50th anniversary this year. John Travolta’s flub, in which he infamously mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name as “Adele Dazeem”, remains one of the most memorable moments of the 86th Academy Awards. This year, Travolta presented alongside Menzel as the two poked fun at the gaffe. We’re also pretty sure that this is the first time anyone has thanked their dog in an Oscars acceptance speech – Birdmanco-writer Nicolás Giacobone expressed his gratitude to his canine pal, Larry.
The full list of winners and nominees follows:
BEST PICTURE
Birdman WINNER
American Sniper
Boyhood
The Imitation Game
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

BEST DIRECTOR
Alejandro González Iñárritu – BirdmanWINNER
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

BEST ACTOR
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of EverythingWINNER
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper
Michael Keaton – Birdman

BEST ACTRESS
Julianne Moore – Still AliceWINNER
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
JK Simmons – WhiplashWINNER
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood – WINNER
Laura Dern – Wild
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game
Emma Stone – Birdman
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Birdman – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo – WINNER
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore – WINNER
American Sniper – Jason Hall
Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten
Whiplash – Damien Chazelle
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Big Hero 6WINNER
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Ida (Poland) – Paweł Pawlikowski – WINNER
Tangerines (Estonia) – Zaza Urushadze
Leviathan (Russia) – Andrey Zvyagintsev
Wild Tales (Argentina)– Damián Szifrón
Timbuktu (Mauritania)– Abderrahmane Sissako
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Citizenfour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky – WINNER
Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof, Charlie Siskel
Last Days in Vietnam – Rory Kennedy, Keven McAlester
The Salt of the Earth – Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, David Rosier
Virunga – Orlando von Einsiedel, Joanna Natasegara
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1– Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Dana Perry – WINNER
Joanna – Aneta Kopacz
Our Curse – Tomasz Sliwinski, Maciej Slesicki
The Reaper – Gabriel Serra
White Earth – Christian Jensen
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby, James Lucas – WINNER
Aya – Oded Binnun, Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham – Michael Lennox, Ronan Blaney
Butter Lamp – Wei Hu, Julien Féret
Parvaneh – Talkhon Hamzavi, Stefan Eichenberger
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Feast – Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed – WINNER
The Bigger Picture – Daisy Jacobs, Chris Hees
The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo, Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi
Me and My Moulton – Torill Kove
A Single Life – Joris Oprins
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest HotelWINNER
Alexandre Desplat – The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer – Interstellar
Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Theory of Everything
Gary Yershon – Mr. Turner

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Glory” from Selma – Lonnie “Common” Lynn, John Legend – WINNER
“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie – Shawn Patterson
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights – Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me – Glen Campbell, Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again – Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman – WINNER
Birdman – Aaron Glascock, Martín Hernández
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge, Jason Canovas
Interstellar – Richard King
Unbroken – Becky Sullivan, Andrew DeCristofaro
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins, Thomas Curley – WINNER
American Sniper – John T Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, Walt Martin
Birdman – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Thomas Varga
Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten
Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, David Lee
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock – WINNER
The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar – Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner – Suzie Davies, Charlotte Watts
ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki – WINNER
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert D. Yeoman
Ida – Lukasz Zal, Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner – Dick Pope
Unbroken – Roger Deakins
ACHIEVEMENT IN HAIR AND MAKEUP
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon, Mark Coulier – WINNER
Foxcatcher – Bill Corso, Dennis Liddiard
Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, David White
ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero– WINNER
Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges
Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood
Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard
Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran
ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Whiplash – Tom Cross – WINNER
Boyhood – Sandra Adair
The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling
American Sniper – Joel Cox, Gary Roach
ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Interstellar – Paul J Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R Fisher – WINNER
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan Deleeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, Daniel Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner, Paul Corbould
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie, Cameron Waldbauer

Jupiter Ascending

For F*** Magazine

JUPITER ASCENDING 

Director : Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Cast : Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean
Genre : Sci-Fi/Action/Fantasy
Opens : 5 February 2015

It seems that The Wachowskis enjoyed working on the futuristic “An Orison of Sonmi~451” section of Cloud Atlas, because with Jupiter Ascending, Lana and Andy go full-on sci-fi space opera. The title refers not only to the planet but also to the character Jupiter Jones (Kunis). The daughter of an astronomer and a Russian immigrant, Jones lives with her mother’s extended family and works as a maid, scrubbing toilets for rich families. Interplanetary warrior Caine Wise (Tatum) arrives on earth to guide and protect Jupiter, who is in reality the reincarnation of the queen of the universe. The queen’s three children, Balem (Redmayne), Titus (Booth) and Kalique (Middleton) Abrasax, are vying for inheritance of the planet earth, Jupiter’s emergence throwing a spanner in the works. Breaking free of her mundane existence, Jupiter comes face to face with her larger-than-life future among the stars.

            A friend of this reviewer remarked that she thought Jupiter Ascendingwas an adaptation of a young adult novel, and it’s not hard to see why. The Wachowskis follow the “chosen girl” template to the letter, with the Mary Sue trope of an ordinary girl who discovers her extraordinary destiny in full effect. The foremost example of the space opera subgenre in film is the Star Wars saga – unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending has more in common with the prequel trilogy than the original three films. The Star Wars prequels were preoccupied with political nitty-gritties that didn’t exactly make for very thrilling storytelling. There, it was trade negotiations, here, it’s a dynasty-run corporation. A good portion of this film is Mila Kunis about to sign contracts. With the three siblings jostling for control of an intergalactic corporate empire, this is Dallas in outer space.

            While the story isn’t the greatest, the milieu in which it takes place is quite impressive. This is a visual feast and everywhere one looks in Jupiter Ascending, care and effort is evident. From the production design by Hugh Bateup to the costume design by Kym Barrett to the visual effects work supervised by Dan Glass, this does not feel like hastily slapped-together sci-fi schlock. Sure, the visual ideas may not be earth-shatteringly unique, but this is the kind of film in which every little prop feels like a work of art. When there are low budget productions out there painting NERF guns black and hoping the audience doesn’t notice, that is worth something. A scene in which Caine swoops between skyscrapers on anti-gravity boots makes far better use of the Chicago skyline as an action sequence environment than the Transformers movies ever did. One of the locales is a city inside the storm of the planet Jupiter’s red spot. There is the feeling that there is a rich mythology and the potential for an engrossing universe somewhere waiting to be built upon that this particular story doesn’t tap into.


            There is an effort made to have Jupiter Jones be at least a little more than the tabula rasa protagonists of her type often are – Mila Kunis is sufficiently charming in the role and finds the right balance for the character such that she doesn’t come off as wholly annoying. We also get to see her relatives, their squabbles juxtaposed against the grand intergalactic family dispute. Points there, seeing as it would be easier to go the “conveniently an orphan” route. That said, it is still difficult to buy Jupiter as little more than a plot device.

            Caine is also very much a stock character – stoic, tough, not necessarily a romantic guy. We stand by the opinion that Channing Tatum’s true calling is comedy and he’s not the greatest at the straight-up man of action thing, but he does give it a good attempt here. He does look slightly goofy playing a space warrior spliced with wolf DNA and, naturally, he goes shirtless for a portion of the film. Going off Eddie Redmayne’s performance here alone, it’s hard to believe that he is an Oscar nominee. As the supercilious aristocratic villain, Redmayne opts for a hoarse, mumbling line delivery and his outbursts aren’t as hammily entertaining as this reviewer was hoping for. Douglas Booth’s Titus is preening and vain; these just aren’t very original interpretations for characters of this type. Sean Bean is as reliable as he usually is, but as “the mentor”, it’s another stock character without many dimensions to him.

            When Jupiter Ascending was pushed back from its summer 2014 release date, speculation was rife that it was because of a certain Marvel space opera flick that posed heavy competition and there and then, many made up their minds that the film would be a train-wreck. While there are potentially laughable elements, Jupiter Ascending is middle of the road rather than outright terrible and it is very competently made. The abundance of visual splendour does make up somewhat for the “been there done that”-ness of the plot.

Summary: Jupiter Ascending’s generic, sometimes uninteresting plot is rescued by exciting, meticulously-crafted visuals and fun action sequences.
RATING: 3out of 5 Stars
Jedd Jong