Mads Mikkelsen In Talks To Join “Fantastic Beasts 3” As Grindelwald!

Like it or not, Johnny Depp has now been officially ruled a wife-beater by a British court, and there’s likely very little he can do at this point to prove otherwise. The ruling, which came about after a prolonged legal battle between Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard (whom Depps claims physically and emotionally abused him, and who herself claims to be the victim of Depp’s own abusive tendencies), has already led to consequences for Depp, at least from a business perspective: it wasn’t long after the court case ended that Warner Brothers announced they had let him go from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Depp was actually the first to break the news, in an Instagram post where he admitted that Warner Brothers had asked him to resign from the role of the dark wizard Grindelwald, a pivotal character in the franchise whom he has played since the Fantastic Beasts franchise’s start in 2016.

Fantastic Beasts
digitalspy.com

What both Depp and Warner Brothers neglected to mention at the time was that Depp, who had not yet filmed any scenes for the third film in the Fantastic Beasts series, would nonetheless be receiving his full 8-figure salary for his work. In light of that reveal, I think we can all agree that – no matter how you feel about Depp and the allegations against him – the actor has been left financially well-equipped by Warner Brothers to continue his fight in court (he hopes to challenge Heard again for libel, here in the United States), and probably find work elsewhere before long. In the meantime, filming is still underway for Fantastic Beasts 3, but the movie now needs a new Grindelwald fast – he’s not a side-character who can just be removed from the story. He’s the main antagonist of the series.

Luckily for the franchise and its small but admittedly devoted hardcore fandom, it seems that Fantastic Beasts director David Yates has long had a replacement in mind, and thus, after just a few days, Yates and Warner Brothers have expressed their intent to bring Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen into the Wizarding World. Mikkelsen, who is often cited as the actor most people wish had gotten the role in the first place, is already in early talks to join the series – a bold and potentially very risky move for the actor, who has up until now made mostly solid career choices: his most significant role to date being Hannibal in the popular TV series of the same name. He hasn’t had much luck when it comes to big film franchises, which may be part of the reason why he’s interested in taking the juicy role of Grindelwald – a charismatic fascist dictator whom we last saw mustering armies of dark wizards to conquer the world and enslave the non-magical population, and who cunningly manipulates the emotions of his nemesis and former lover, Albus Dumbledore. A few years ago I think all this would have been quite enough to convince Mikkelsen (or anyone, really) to take the role. But nowadays, I would personally be hesitant to attach Mikkelsen to the Fantastic Beasts franchise and its swiftly growing hurricane of controversy – for Mikkelsen’s sake.

Fantastic Beasts
Grindelwald | cnbc.com

It’s not just because Mikkelsen will receive a barrage of unwarranted abuse from Johnny Depp’s most ardent supporters, who will cry foul and continue to defend Depp’s right to return to the role; it’s not just that Mikkelsen will have to work around and hopefully overcome valid criticisms that the characters of Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore are written intentionally vaguely so as to queerbait audiences; it’s not even just that J.K. Rowling, the series’ creator and lead writer, is a ticking time bomb who has done her level best to destroy her own reputation and the reputations of those who associate with her by constantly waging war on the trans community in a series of attacks that ranged from depicting transwomen in her adult crime novels as serial killers by nature, to writing up entire essays about how she thinks transwomen are infiltrating spaces reserved for cisgender women or being forced to transition by nefarious forces, to unfollowing fellow author Stephen King on Twitter after he simply proclaimed that transwomen are women. It’s also that Fantastic Beasts is a struggling franchise overall, one which any bystander can see is probably on a collision course with disaster. While the first film was fairly decent and made a good profit, the sequel derailed the story entirely – and unsurprisingly, it drew in overwhelmingly negative reviews before dying a long, slow, death at the box office. Fantastic Beasts 3 is now being moved from the franchise’s consistent, safe, November release date to an alarming spot in mid-July, where it will open just a week after Captain Marvel 2, the sequel to last year’s female-led, billion-dollar-club entry. At one point, this series was supposed to be a five-film epic: now, with everything up in the air, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to make a fourth or fifth film happen, and J.K. Rowling would be wise to at least try and wrap up the entire series in this third movie – the only one she’s assured to get. But with the way she’s been acting recently, I’m not holding my breath. What seems more likely is that she’ll end Fantastic Beasts 3 on yet another bizarre cliffhanger just before the entire franchise gets gently terminated, leaving us all unsatisfied, frustrated, and exhausted. Either that or Warner Brothers sticks with J.K. Rowling’s vision and continues to suffer the consequences.

And as for Mads Mikkelsen personally, well, he’ll get a big paycheck for sure, but the laundry list of possible consequences for him for taking this role goes on. Right upfront, he’ll be expected to come up with an excuse for how he can be comfortable working under J.K. Rowling – and, in fact, all the Fantastic Beasts stars will need to do so before long. So far, the series’ lead Eddie Redmayne has wavered between vocally condemning Rowling’s harsh rhetoric and writing supportive letters to her. Mikkelsen should be ready with a statement of his own: if he signs on, he will become the first major actor to join the franchise after Rowling’s transphobic views became widely-known, putting him in an unenviable position. For the moment, he’ll also carry the massive burden of trying to rescue the franchise (assuming that’s even a concern of Warner Brothers’ at this point): he’s the only new name thus far attached to the cast, and none of his costars, not even Jude Law, did much to draw audiences to theaters when the last film came out in 2018. Depp’s parting and Rowling’s statements make it inevitable that we’ll also see calls to boycott in the months and weeks leading up to the film’s release: there’s a widespread feeling among the fandom that supporting Fantastic Beasts financially equals supporting transphobia.

Fantastic Beasts
Mads Mikkelsen | independent.co.uk

With that being said, Mikkelsen is popular enough that he might actually be able to rescue the franchise, though he’ll never be able to repair all the damage that’s been done. Since the news of his involvement broke last night, I’ve been surprised to see a surge of people expressing renewed interest in the upcoming third film, saying that they’ll watch it just for Mikkelsen, or at least catch it on HBO Max. Granted, this moment of hype could die out by the time the film actually opens, and we’ll have to see how Mikkelsen looks and acts in the Grindelwald costume (or if he gets embroiled in any controversy of his own, something I truly hope doesn’t happen), but he’s almost certain to turn in a great performance: the kind of performance that could even get Fantastic Beasts some good reviews. If Warner Brothers is trying to get this franchise off their hands, they might have chosen too good an actor to make that possible just yet.

So what do you think? Is Mikkelsen a much-needed win for a franchise getting back on its feet after failure, or is this a disastrous career choice the actor will regret for a long time? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Trial Of The Chicago 7” Review!

Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is certainly going to be a strong contender, and probably even a frontrunner, in the race for Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony, but it’s right now, as 2020 finally nears its end and as the U.S. Presidential election creeps closer, that the whole world should be watching this film and learning or relearning the incredible story of the Chicago 7: not just the men themselves, each one a fascinating character in their own right, but the larger cultural and political significance of their trial – a trial where American governmental and legal institutions not only failed to protect the rights of protestors, but actively sought to suppress them. Although the Chicago 7 were arrested for protesting the Vietnam War, their struggle is both relevant and relatable in the modern day – in 2020 especially, as protests across the nation in the wake of an unarmed Black man’s death in June led to a violent response from our government and law enforcement.

Trial Of The Chicago 7
Sacha Baron Cohen & Jeremy Strong | vanityfair.com

So who were the Chicago 7, and why was their trial such a landmark moment in this nation’s history? The historical context is always important to know, and the history behind this particular case is truly fascinating. The film opens mere days before the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, 1968, as several different activist groups intent on protesting the selection of the party’s nominee, Hubert Humphrey, converged on the city from all around the country: and then, after a montage introducing each of our seven main players, we jump ahead by five months – the trial is already about to begin, and Richard Nixon’s administration personally wants each and every one of them behind bars for the maximum sentence. Whether you know what happened in Chicago or not during the convention, it’s enthralling either way as Aaron Sorkin’s story slowly begins to uncover, through the help of flashbacks, what really went down as the protesters marched through the city and ran into the heavily armed Chicago Police. Anyone who’s been paying attention to the news this year already knows what went down, even if they don’t know the exact details of this particular incident.

Throughout the chaos and violence, Aaron Sorkin’s story keeps us focused on the humanity of the Chicago 7, and contrasts that with the horrific lack of empathy from the police. Again, the discussion of “empathy vs apathy” is significant to our modern climate, and Sorkin’s film closes with a beautiful – and factually inaccurate – display of human empathy at its most inspiring and powerful. It’s never lost on Sorkin that this was the trial of real men, not just lofty ideals and philosophies. And almost every main actor in the ensemble cast plays their part to its fullest, breathing life into these little-known but incredible historical figures.

Trial Of The Chicago 7
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II | thewrap.com

Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne are very much leading co-stars, in my opinion, but it’s Baron Cohen who makes the strongest impression as the tall, lanky Yippie activist Abbie Hoffman and makes a good case for why he should finally be recognized as an actor equally gifted in both comedy and drama (since apparently his starring role in The Spy wasn’t enough evidence for some of you). A Best Actor nomination had better be incoming for Baron Cohen: even despite the fact that the film cuts out some, arguably most, of Hoffman’s most eccentric real-life antics in court, Baron Cohen makes him the wittiest, most vivid character in the film – and the story’s beating heart and stand-in for most of the counterculture movement of the late 60’s.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, meanwhile, excels as the more stoic, solemn Bobby Seale, a member of the Black Panthers who was arrested alongside the other defendants but whose case was later severed from the others’. Seale’s mistreatment in the courtroom – including a horrifying incident in which Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella) orders that he be bound and gagged, to the point where Seale is unable to breathe – is all taken from real life and shines a light on how the law itself is weaponized against the Black community just as much as the militaristic might of law enforcement. By that time in the film, you’ll already be well aware that the trial of the Chicago 7 was not a fair one, but the treatment of Bobby Seale adds violent racism and white supremacy to the mix as well. The Black Panthers, including their leader Fred Hampton (briefly but powerfully portrayed by Kelvin Harrison Jr.), don’t have a very large role in the film overall but their appearances do help to underscore the fact that any conversation about cultural and political revolution needs to include Black voices, no matter what era it occurs in – and of course, it’s an especially important message to get across since the cultural and political revolution happening in this country nowadays is largely being fueled by Black activists and their allies.

Trial Of The Chicago 7
Eddie Redmayne | cinemablend.com

In this film, however, Eddie Redmayne’s version of the real-life Tom Hayden comes across as something of an opponent to such progressive messaging throughout most of the film. His character seems largely crafted to provide a foil for Sacha Baron Cohen’s – a stiff, uptight, idealist trying to distance himself and his group, the Students for a Democratic Society, from the counterculture movement of the Yippies. But it appears that Sorkin is also using his character to represent a number of liberal subdivisions in political activism that claim to be “for change” until that actually requires listening to the voices of underrepresented minorities or demanding comprehensive structural change within our government, from the ground up. Hayden is like so many activists who try to make their movements more “appealing” or “attractive” to the mainstream by presenting a mostly white facade to the media, at the cost of the marginalized communities they claim to be fighting for; and then he is like one of those people who seem to believe that winning a single election is all that has to be done to fix problems such as racism, but aren’t prepared to advocate for designing a new system of government that would ensure we actually see some substantial change and progress. It’s all a little bit unfair to the real-life Tom Hayden, who actually fell more in line with counterculture philosophy than the film would have you believe. Anyway, Redmayne’s performance is perfectly decent: it leans toward being a bit wooden, but his attempts to maintain a passable American accent are entertaining at least.

As for the other defendants, they have their moments. Jeremy Strong is maybe trying a bit too hard with his borderline caricature of Yippie leader Jerry Rubin, John Carroll Lynch is doing his best with what little screentime David Dellinger has been given, and Alex Sharp, Noah Robbins and Daniel Flaherty are…well, they’re there. But the other real standout on this side of the courtroom is Mark Rylance as the defense lawyer William Kuntzler, somehow confidently rocking a combover, who rallies the group during their darkest moments, adds some very natural humor to his interactions with his clients, particularly the Yippies, and holds his own against the indomitable, immovable presence of Julius Hoffman.

On the other side, well…I have fewer positive things to say about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of prosecutor Richard Schultz, who has been written as a semi-sympathetic character who’s maybe conflicted, maybe not…who knows? He gets one moment near the end of the film where he’s allowed to look all heroic and redeemed in the audience’s eyes, despite the fact that he is still very clearly fighting on behalf of the Nixon administration to put men in jail for their thoughts. But regardless of whether or not you feel that Schultz is really a good guy or not, I think we can all agree that Judge Julius Hoffman is (and was) just straight-up hateful, ignorant and repulsive.

Trial Of The Chicago 7
netflix.com

That being said, Frank Langella works wonders with the role, which allows him to transform into a character almost as wildly eccentric as Sacha Baron Cohen’s Abbie Hoffman – and in fact, it’s with the other Hoffman that he shares his most memorable scenes in the film (and yes, the fact that they coincidentally share a last name is the subject of much argument between the two; just as it was in real-life). Julius Hoffman is a grotesque display of why preserving the status quo, even in this day and age, isn’t good enough: because the status quo is one that was made by white men for white men, and will always work to benefit white men. The fact that Julius Hoffman is actually less outlandishly awful in the movie than he was in real life is mind-boggling and sad.

(While we’re on the subject, I feel like I have to touch on the fact that Sorkin’s film actually leaves out a great deal of the trial proceedings, including some celebrity appearances that would have made for some incredibly funny interludes between the more serious parts of the story: for instance, in reality, poet Allen Ginsburg was called in as a witness (he appears in the film, very briefly, as a protester) and proceeded to chant at the judge; singer Judy Collins appeared to discuss the counterculture movement and began to sing, before being shut down; and singer Arlo Guthrie appeared and apparently entranced Julius Hoffman with a lengthy plot synopsis of Alice’s Restaurant – he too was silenced after he began to sing. I’m not sure whether Sorkin felt these events would be too fantastical for audiences to believe, or whether he just didn’t have time to include them, but I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed. At the very least, Judy Collins would have been a remarkable female presence in a film dominated by an almost all-male cast).

In so many ways, despite its occasional flaws, Aaron Sorkin has made not only an excellent courtroom drama but a film which defines the prevailing spirit of 2020, at least in the United States of America – and it couldn’t have been released at a more critical moment, although it would be an instant classic in any era: all year long, we’ve witnessed in real-time as our American government has crumbled under the weight of an administration that has failed its people; as bigoted individuals sheltered by a law enforcement system corrupt to its core have targeted and murdered American citizens because of the color of their skin; as the vote, seemingly the most powerful and politically correct method by which a person can voice their opinion, is being threatened by institutions that would seek to render us voiceless and thus powerless. But The Trial Of The Chicago 7 is a much-needed demonstration of the power of protest: the raw, inspiring power that we have when we raise our voices in harmony, and demand change. The film takes place in 1969, but it’s a story we can all relate to in 2020 because we’re still fighting that same injustice, because we will always fight it as long as it exists.

Let the record show that we made our voices heard.

Rating: 9.5/10

“Fantastic Beasts 3” Has Been Greenlit!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was not a good movie. In fact, it can be argued that it was a downright bad one – certainly critics and audiences were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the film’s many convoluted subplots, crowded cast of characters, and disrespect toward Wizarding World canon. Nonetheless, many of us hoped and prayed that, despite fan backlash, despite that ugly Rotten score, despite (worst of all) the lower box-office returns, the franchise could reach its full potential in a third installment, a third film that could right Grindelwald‘s wrongs and put the series back on track. We, the faithful few, suffered devastating setback after devastating setback: the film was pushed back to a 2021 release date; star Ezra Miller’s busy schedule seemed to indicate that he might be leaving the Beasts franchise, or worse, that it might be canceled – these were the concerns that kept us awake at night. We heard rumors that Johnny Depp was out as Grindelwald; that Warner Brothers had lost faith in writer J.K. Rowling’s ability to turn out a good film; that nothing was certain.

Today, one year after Crimes Of Grindelwald put the franchise’s future into question – a third film has been confirmed.

"Fantastic Beasts 3" Has Been Greenlit! 1
cinemablend.com

Beasts is not dead, despite how long it took to get the series off of life-support. In Fantastic Beasts 3, the franchise will need to work harder than ever before to convince fans to stick around – but Rowling can’t rely on the same tactics she thought would make Grindelwald an instant hit: her literary style, the complexity of her stories, her excessive callbacks to Harry Potter – that all needs to stop now, for the third film to work. No more subplots within subplots within subplots, all stuffed into one gigantic red-herring; no more half-baked characters tossed into the story to fill up space and time; no more queer-baiting Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s LGBTQ relationship. It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs, on the core narrative of our four heroes (Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, Tina and Queenie Goldstein), and strip away the layers upon layers of underdeveloped plot that turned Grindelwald into the tangled mess that it was. Bring us back to basics, Jo, and give us a good, stand-alone story that is comprehensible, accessible, and enjoyable.

Thankfully, she’s not alone. As many of us suspected and hoped would be the case, a real screenwriter has been brought onboard to assist Rowling in translating her impressive vision to the big screen: Steve Kloves, the writer for all of the Harry Potter films (except Order Of The Phoenix). Rowling was originally set the write the third film on her own, but reason has prevailed.

I’m not saying that Rowling is not a good writer – on the contrary, I believe she is quite an excellent one: she has an eye for detail, she weaves clues and hints into her writing in an intriguing way that allows fans to play along, and she has a knack for compelling mystery (so much so that, when not writing wizard books/movies, she writes mystery novels under a pseudonym). But her style is best suited to the literary format, where she has all the time she needs to write those mysteries and weave those intricate stories. In a two-hour film, her plot is virtually bursting at the seams, demanding to be given space to breathe, pleading with the viewer for more time – time that Rowling simply doesn’t have. With a professional screenwriter at her side, she will hopefully be able to edit her story down to a decent size, give it a clear focus, and make it just a bit more cinematic: certainly there’s enough in the third film to make a good movie, it just needs a good script.

Fantastic Beasts 3 is confirmed to be another world-hopping adventure like the first two films, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, set as one of the main locations – though the Deadline article in which the news broke does make it seem like the story will span several continents: which would fit in with what star Dan Fogler suggested earlier this year, that the third film would be bigger in scale than the first two combined. Oh please, Jo, don’t mess this up. This could be your last chance – don’t mess this up!

The regular cast, including Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore, are confirmed to be returning for the third film. Jessica Williams, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Grindelwald as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, will also have a pivotal role, though no further details have been revealed about her character. Production will begin in Spring of 2020.

What do you think of the news? Are you relieved, or disappointed that the franchise is continuing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Jonah Hill (Maybe) Cast In “The Batman”!

With the focus all on Bruce Wayne’s nemesis Joker for the past few weeks, with critics and early audiences chattering excitedly about controversy and Oscar drama, it’s understandable why plenty of people have probably forgotten about, you know, Bruce Wayne. But yes, indeed, there is a new Batman movie coming out of DC Studios, and the headlines it’s been stirring up today might turn the attention away from Joker for just a little while (not enough to make a dent in that film’s box-office tracking, though).

The Matt Reeves-directed Batman prequel, simply entitled The Batman, already caused quite a rift in the DCEU fandom when it cast Robert Pattinson in the lead role, as the franchise’s newest Dark Knight. But since then, there’s been little to no news about the film, and much of what has been rumored seems “too good to be true”. Daisy Ridley was rumored at one point to be playing Batgirl; then it was Andy Serkis as a possible candidate for The Penguin; Eddie Redmayne lobbying for the role of The Riddler; Vanessa Hudgens wanting to play Catwoman; Josh Gad campaigning for The Penguin; just last night Zendaya made unintentional waves in the Batman fandom by wearing green to the Emmys, which, according to some, was a nod to Poison Ivy; only a few weeks ago it was Rihanna who accidentally got herself labeled as Poison Ivy by over-enthusiastic theorists; so on and so on. The list of A-list actors who want to be in The Batman to accompany Pattinson on his journey back to stardom is incredibly long, but so far none of these are more than rumors or fan-speculation. And as for the actual cast that is being assembled, well, it’s a lot more low-key. Matt Reeves has already made it clear he’s going for a much more grounded approach to the superhero than has been previously attempted, so maybe he just doesn’t want big, flashy superstars distracting from his vision. Whatever his reasoning, he’s just picked out two actors for lead roles – and, well, they might not be Rihanna, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, either.

First, Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright has apparently been cast to play Commissioner Jim Gordon, Gotham City detective, Batman ally, and, most importantly, the father of Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl. Wright’s casting suggests that a woman of color could be up for that coveted role: considering that Batgirl, in the comics, happens to be a white woman with red hair, this will undoubtedly spark more of the usual uproar about how “Hollywood hates redheads”, a statement that is still laughably wrong no matter how many times it gets brought up. However Reeves decides to interpret Barbara, though, the casting of her father is a win for Wright, who’s got a decent, but relatively low-profile resume: he’s definitely looking to change that, scoring roles in the next James Bond film, as well as Marvel’s What If? streaming show.

Then, there’s the big headline: Jonah Hill, a two-time Oscar nominee who has mostly flown under the radar with mainstream audiences, is in early talks to play a villain in The Batman, but neither he nor Warner Brothers can decide which one. Apparently Matt Reeves is intent on nabbing the Moneyball star, and Hill is intent on starring in this movie; it’s just a matter of figuring out which of Gotham’s legendary rogues is best suited for the dramatic actor. According to other trades, the conversation has been narrowed down to a choice between The Penguin and The Riddler, both iconic characters; but “it is unclear if the two sides will be able to find common ground”. I can’t imagine how difficult this choice could possibly be (if you’re going to cast Jonah Hill in your Batman movie, you cast him as The Penguin, there is no room for doubt), but all the reports are unanimous in saying that the delay has nothing to do with dealmaking, but everything to do with pure indecision. Personally, Hill as Penguin and Eddie Redmayne as Riddler sounds like a perfect scenario, and if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be hesitating, but Reeves and Warner Brothers probably know what they’re doing. Emphasis on probably

The Batman is expected to include a large, possibly unprecedented number of villains, but no names are yet confirmed. So I turn the question to you: who would you like to see Jonah Hill play in the Caped Crusader’s solo movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The Aeronauts” Trailer!

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who portrayed married geniuses Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, are sharing the screen once again; again, in a historical setting, even if this one is rather more heavily fictionalized than the account of the Hawkings’ life.

The first trailer for Amazon Prime Video’s new film, The Aeronauts, has just dropped, giving us a first look at the usually mild-mannered Redmayne and Jones as toughened meteorologists and pilots fighting for survival high up in the atmosphere. Redmayne, technically speaking, is playing a real-life person, James Glaisher, but it doesn’t seem that much of Glaisher’s actual life experiences are being transferred over to the medium of film. The Aeronauts follows Glaisher’s famous 1862 ascent in a hot-air balloon to the height of…well, nobody knows for sure how high he went, because he actually passed out on the way, but it could have been anywhere from 8,800 to 10,900 metres above sea level. This film, however, is embellishing the story with incidents like unforeseen storms, freezing temperatures, and possibly even an explosion judging off how tattered the balloon looks by the end of the trailer, when we see Redmayne slipping from his perch and (possibly?) tumbling into thin air. Leaving all that aside, they didn’t even attempt to make Redmayne physically resemble Glaisher at all: where are the enormous sideburns? Where is the beard that wraps around the underside of the chin for whatever reason?

Additionally, the film has taken the liberty of inventing Felicity Jones’ character, pilot Amelia Wren, entirely. Female representation is never a bad thing (unless done badly), and this movie is already so fictionalized, it doesn’t really matter. Wren could be based on Glaisher’s eventual wife, Cecilia Belville, a well-educated woman who pursued a career in the sciences, specifically as an artist. As far as I know, however, she never stepped foot in a hot-air balloon in her entire life. In reality, it was Henry Tracey Coxwell who accompanied Glashier on most of his flights, but he appears to have been excised from this adaptation.

All this is not to bash on the movie: the film, regarded on its own, actually looks quite good, and the focus on just two characters, trapped in dire circumstances at the top of the world, running out of oxygen and food, will surely create tension and chemistry between these incredible actors. I also love history and historical fiction (in doses), so this movie looks like something I might enjoy greatly, even if it does play loose-and-fast with some facts. I hope others will give it a shot, and make this another win for Amazon Prime Video.

Will you? Does the premise of The Aeronauts interest you, or is it too fictionalized? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“Jupiter Ascending” Rant Review!

I debated for a long time whether to title this “Jupiter Ascending Review” or “Two Hours Of My Life Wasted On Space Monopoly”. That should tell you something about what this movie is like.

"Jupiter Ascending" Rant Review! 2
usatoday.com

I only decided to watch Jupiter Ascending, a movie I had never previously seen, because Netflix was promoting it on their social media as a “wacky space opera” that needed to be seen to be believed. The only thing I knew about it was that it starred Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, someone who I have loved in previous movies like The Theory Of Everything and the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I now feel like I am well within my rights to sue Mr. Redmayne for emotional damages caused by this particular film, which is less like a “space opera” than it is like ” Wagner’s entire Der Ring des Nibelungen but with spaceships”.

This movie is long. So long, in fact, that I had to physically force myself to keep watching at multiple points, but I made it: well, technically there were three or four unnaturally long action-sequences that I had to fast-forward through, and I can’t even say that I’m ashamed. Action-sequences are supposed to be exhilarating and fun – but for some reason, these ones were bizarrely quiet (like Redmayne, but we’ll get to him), and also incredibly dull. There are lots of films out there that get bombarded for having good fight-scenes but a boring, convoluted plot: Jupiter Ascending doesn’t even have halfway-decent fight-scenes, and its plot is structured similarly to a labyrinth. I have to wonder how anyone actually convinced themselves this movie was a good idea – that this movie was even an okay idea. In my opinion, it doesn’t even count as a bad idea: abysmal is nearer the mark. And while I don’t like ranting, I have to make an exception in this case: mostly because I’m going to use this as evidence for when I sue Netflix, Eddie Redmayne, the Wachowskis, and everybody else even remotely involved in this film’s conceptualization, production, release and distribution.

Where do we begin? Can I even try to make sense of the…hmm, it’s not a plot – what’s the word I’m looking for? It’ll come back to me. Anyway, the thing-that-isn’t-a-plot begins with a young Russian woman named Jupiter Jones (the fact that she’s Russian has no impact whatsoever on absolutely anything, but you would at least expect it to influence her name: yeah, no), played by Mila Kunis, who, to give her credit, tries her level best to act with all resources available to her, including, but not limited to: an oversize blanket, a hand-gun, toilet-brush, space-iPad, cloud of CGI bees, wedding-ring dispenser, and eyeliner. Unfortunately for her, everybody else in this film is also trying to act with their eyeliner – and everybody, including Kunis, is failing. Jupiter Jones just so happens to be obsessed with astrology (wouldn’t have guessed it from the name or anything), and her entire motivation throughout the film is…to buy a telescope. She has no interest in playing the Game of Thrones with Eddie Redmayne, and she’s only temporarily intrigued by the laws and customs of Jupiter (for whatever reason), but getting home to her telescope is her primary goal. And, look, I’m not here to judge you (I’m judging you), but who in their right mind actually approved this script? While trying to make money to buy this telescope, Jones gets kidnapped by aliens disguised as fertility clinic doctors (I’m not making this up), before being suddenly rescued by a werewolf/human/alien/angel hybrid bounty hunter with flying boots named Caine Wise. And basically it’s Channing Tatum with eyeliner, pointy ears, a ridiculous chin-beard, and wings (or, rather, horrific scars where his wings used to be, before he was thrown out of heaven or whatever for biting somebody: I’m not joking). Then they blow up most of Chicago, but somehow it gets rebuilt within a day. And that’s it. That’s the plot of this movie.

Don’t make me continue. Please don’t make me.

After being rescued by Channing Tatum and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jupiter Jones is whisked off to a farm in the middle of nowhere, where she meets Sean Bean – sorry, Stinger”, who happens to be a human/alien/honeybee hybrid bounty hunter. You read that correctly, he’s part honeybee. And yes, his name is Stinger. It gets worse from there. Stinger has a lot of helpful exposition to share with Jupiter Jones, and thankfully she has all the questions in the world, including ones that we really didn’t need answered, like “who killed the dinosaurs?” – (it was aliens, by the way). Stinger then tells her everything there is to know about Caine, except for the crucial stuff like; why is he a werewolf? Why did he have wings? Why does he own flying boots? Why did Channing Tatum willingly do this to his career? And when Jupiter learns that she can control bees, Stinger immediately realizes that means she’s the one true queen of the earth, because…because…(don’t make me literally write these words)…bee-cause bees are genetically disposed to recognize royalty, and because bees don’t lie. Remember, somebody actually wrote this script. Jones is then taken captive by a different gang of bounty hunters working for Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), until it turns out that some of them are actually working for Lady Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) – if only I knew or cared who either of those people were, I might actually be somewhat interested in this plot twist. Unfortunately, the movie then decides to try and force me to care by carrying our bee-dazzlingly boring protagonist off to an alien planet where Kalique decides to give another long expository speech about how Jupiter Jones is actually the reincarnation of her murdered mother, before losing Jones in another boring, eerily quiet action-sequence that features Channing Tatum once again swooping in (literally) to save the damsel in distress. Good thing the Wachowskis decided to use that overdone trope a few hundred more times in this movie! Because not only does Jones need to be rescued from Kalique (flying boots do the trick there), but she then needs to be rescued from Lord Titus Abrasax (handy-dandy spaceship battle and incredibly slow-moving wedding ceremony saves the day), and finally from Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne’s incompetence combined with Channing Tatum’s flying boots get Jones out of this one), as various planets and civilizations crumble around her. Thankfully, I couldn’t care less about any of them. Spoiler Alert!, Jupiter Jones eventually ends up with her werewolf alien boyfriend; Eddie Redmayne falls to his death; thousands of innocent human beings are saved by one magical pair of flying shoes, proving that practical footwear is the answer to all of life’s problems; Sean Bean don’t die and the bees don’t lie. Oh, and did I mention that deep inside the planet Jupiter there’s a giant factory where flying lizards transform human souls into a nectar which keeps rich and famous intergalactic bureaucrats eternally youthful? But that, for some reason, the hair-and-makeup team didn’t get the memo and decided to make Eddie Redmayne look like he was sixty?

That’s the plot. That’s Jupiter Ascending. Sadly, it doesn’t end there: this movie relies heavily on some of the most pathetic dialogue ever written, so much so that it deserves a special shoutout for lines like:

“I CREATE LIFE! And I destroy it…” – Lord Balem Abrasax (delivered in a high-pitched scream followed by gravelly whispering, in what I suspect was meant to be an artistic decision).

“I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs.” – Jupiter Jones (delivered while trying to convince her gravity-defying werewolf buddy that he and she are meant to be together: Tatum’s glassy-eyed silence in response is possibly the only time this film tried to make its characters’ dialogue logical: by not having them speak).

“Does any part of you want to bite me?” – Jupiter Jones (not taking no for an answer, Jones hounds (haha, a canine joke) the werewolf and again tries to make this relationship seem even remotely interesting. I have to hope and pray that this line is only in the movie because someone left the cameras rolling while Kunis was making fun of the script, but didn’t cut it out of the finished product because unfortunately it could easily be misconstrued as intentional: then again, this is the same film that informed me that bees don’t lie, so I don’t know what to bee-lieve anymore).

Now that I’ve shared those gems with you, it’s obviously time to talk about performances, or what little remains of them once you dig through all the exposition, Random Dialogue About Bees, and several layers of hurricane surrounding the planet Jupiter (don’t worry, Channing Tatum does). Eddie Redmayne could have been the highlight of this movie, the one thing preventing it from totally collapsing into a murk of space-ooze. He could have been the sole remaining survivor of this catastrophe, the one member of this cast who could hold his head up high after making this film and point to his performance as the one thing that kept Jupiter Ascending from descending into the never-ending bleakness of the void.

Thank goodness he didn’t do any of that. Instead, we get to see the Academy Award-winner gliding around in a shimmery space-bathrobe before Jeff Goldblum made them cool, alternately screaming at the top of his lungs, whispering so softly you can barely hear him, or drawing breath. The fact that he was still breathing was quite possibly one of the most interesting things about his performance, because I, for one, don’t know if I would have had the strength and perseverance necessary for that role. Alongside Redmayne is screen legend Sean Bean, desperately clinging to his dignity for as long as humanly possible, until he finally just gives up, betrays the good guys for unexplained reasons, develops a moral compass out of nowhere, redeems himself, and…doesn’t even die. The Wachowskis got Sean Bean for their movie and did not kill him: what kinds of filmmakers are they?

"Jupiter Ascending" Rant Review! 3
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I’d rather not talk about Kunis and Tatum, if it’s all the same to you. I’d rather just stop now.

So what can I say for this film that isn’t negative? It’s wacky, that’s undeniable, and it doesn’t let you forget it once during its incredibly long runtime. But its wackiness isn’t good: it’s the sort of scratching-the-bottom-of-the-barrel that leads to extended sequences spent watching Jupiter Jones walk back and forth between desks at the space DMV, or gives aspiring talent like Gugu Mbatha-Raw a bad name by forcing her to wear giant prosthetic ears. It’s boring, once you’ve seen all that space has to offer, and even Jupiter realizes that halfway into the movie: she couldn’t wait to return to earth, and nor could I. Sadly, there isn’t a place in the universe where I can be far enough away from Jupiter Jones and the flying werewolf angel, because they’re permanently scarred into my brain now. If you want more scathing satirical analysis of this film’s many faults, I will refer you here and here – I don’t even particularly like CinemaSins, so me recommending them says a lot about how bad this movie is.

But if Jupiter Ascending taught me anything, it’s this:

Bees don’t lie, but Netflix does.

Movie Rating: 1/10

“Fantastic Beasts 3” Release Date Announced!

"Fantastic Beasts 3" Release Date Announced! 4
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It’s long been suspected that the next installment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise wouldn’t be coming to the big screen for quite some time: not only was the previous Beasts film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, ravaged by critics and met with only a middling reaction at the box-office, but there was also debate about whether or not the franchise’ star Johnny Depp was fit to remain in his role as the Wizarding World’s greatest villain after his domestic abuse scandal began to heat up again. Ezra Miller had some scheduling troubles with his upcoming Flash movie. Meanwhile, the sci-fi epic Dune nabbed the November 2020 release date that had previously been rumored to belong to Fantastic Beasts 3, leading some to believe we would see the third film in early 2021.

Alas, it is not to be. Today, Warner Brothers released a statement confirming that, while they are “proud to be the cinematic home of the Wizarding World”, they’ve made the decision to push back the third film’s release date to November 12, 2021. Considering the epic cliffhanger that the previous film left off with, this is a hard blow to those of us who actually enjoyed Crimes of Grindelwald and are excited to see where this franchise could go. Author J.K Rowling has the script apparently ready to go, and filming will begin in the spring of 2020. Previously, actor Dan Fogler had reported that the third film would be bigger than the first two Beasts movies combined – probably an overstatement, but perhaps not impossible at this point: the official reason given for delaying Fantastic Beasts 3 is that it will “give the filmmakers time and space to allow their artistry to truly flourish”, which sounds pretty good, all things considered. Crimes of Grindelwald was rushed through its production and, as much as I loved the film, it certainly had major flaws: the characters felt only half-baked compared to how vibrant and unique they were in Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them; multiple plots and subplots branched out without solid resolutions; and, worst of all for Wizarding World fans, there were a number of peculiar and nagging retcons or continuity errors, none more infamous (or notorious) than the appearance of Professor Minerva McGonagall years before her established birthdate in the Harry Potter canon. More time to work on the film could have made it a worthier sequel to the first Fantastic Beasts installment, and might have made it more of a critical darling – or a box-office hit. As it was neither, it’s no surprise that the studio is taking steps to insure the franchise gets back on a smoother track: according to Rowling, there will be five films when all is said and done. If Fantastic Beasts 3 winds up in the same unfavorable position as its predecessor, we might never see 4 and 5.

Hopefully, having more time to perfect the script and edit out unnecessary filler material (did we really need to see Yusuf Kama’s eye-surgery, or Newt Scamander’s escapade with a Kelpie in Crimes of Grindelwald?), or unnecessary fan-services (looking at you, McGonagall, and you, Nicolas Flamel), will only benefit the final film. Even though we now have a much longer wait ahead of us, we can rest assured that what we get in the end could be that much better.

Fantastic Beasts 3

Spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, ahead!

 

Following Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, viewers were left with a myriad of unanswered questions. However, most of us took assurance in the fact that we would only have to wait two years for the next installment to figure out things like: how is Credence a Dumbledore? How is Minerva McGonagall alive years before her birth? How is it even humanly possible that Eddie Redmayne continues to get more and more adorable in the role of Newt Scamander?

However, our hopes were rudely shattered by the news, which broke in January, that production of Fantastic Beasts 3 had been pushed back to the fall of this year – it had been expected to start production in the summer. This was followed by the revelation that the release date rumored to be reserved for Fantastic Beasts 3, November 20th, 2020, had been given to the sci-fi epic Dune. Now we’ve been able to glean a few more details about why the production was delayed. In an interview with the LA Times, Warner Brothers chief executive Kevin Tsujihara revealed that he is aware that Crimes of Grindelwald was no critical darling, and that its box-office gross was not what he had hoped for: he suggested that this is being taken into consideration now, and that J.K Rowling is “working hard” on the script for Fantastic Beasts 3, which is interesting, since she finished writing it all the way back in December. Tsujihara also said that the third film will be better even than the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and that Rowling has “an incredible vision” of what the future installments in the series will be like. This is all very promising, especially when combined with Fantastic Beasts actor Dan Fogler’s statement that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be bigger than the first two movie combined. We can only hope that more news is on its way, and that we can get answers to our questions soon. But at the moment, it seems most likely that Fantastic Beasts 3 will be Apparating into theaters in 2021. That, of course, is small comfort for all of us fans who are dying to see what happens next to Newt & Co., but in my opinion the delay will actually be helpful: Crimes of Grindelwald, of course, was torn apart by critics and had only a moderate success at the box-office, so giving the production team more time to craft an excellent movie is not a bad idea, by any means. Continue reading “Fantastic Beasts 3”