Also reviewed this week: The Outfit and Murina.
Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore (12A, 142 mins)
No, no Grindelwald, don’t tell me – you changed your hair, didn’t you? Or were your teeth capped? Fantastic Beasts 3an unfortunate production, had its schedules shredded by Covid and then was forced into a major cast change in the middle of filming.
In the first two films, Johnny Depp had starred as Grindelwald, a troubled wizard. But due to his defamation trial and allegations of spousal abuse, he was relieved of his duties and replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.
Where Depp hacks, Mikkelsen grins and schemes: his portrayal of Grindelwald is far more effective but gets a bit lost in this confused and meandering film.
In summary: the first Fantastic Beasts Based on an idea by JK Rowling, the film is set in 1920s New York, where eccentric zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) got into deep trouble with the Magical Congress when several of his strange creatures escaped to the Muggle world.
in the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldGellert Grindelwald fled to Europe hotly pursued by Newt, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and an assortment of cuddly followers.
Now, from his wintry hilltop base in the Austrian Alps, Grindelwald plans to pit muggle against muggle in a global conflict that will clear the way for him. It’s in the right place and at the right time (in the 1930s): Curiously, however, no real Nazis appear in this production and a magical version of fascism is only hinted at.
At the bitter end of the final film, we discovered that Dumbledore was close to Grindelwald in his youth and made a magical blood pact that prevented them from ever fighting. So this is a battle for others to fight, against an enemy who can predict your every move.
Meanwhile, Grindelwald hopes to be elected President of the International Confederation of Wizards. To ensure victory, he must get his hands on a rare animal that is used in the election process to determine the worthiness of candidates. Newt has it and brings it to Germany: a cat-and-mouse game ensues.
Also joining the cast is affable Manhattan baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a lion-hearted Muggle whose bride-to-be Queenie (Alison Sudol) was seduced by Grindelwald to the dark side.
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The scene is set for an epic showdown, but it takes its own sweet time and in the meantime there are endless subplots to keep us busy. Dumbledore has one brother, Aberforth (Richard Coyle), a grumpy innkeeper. He had a son who is now estranged and is a key member of Grindelwald’s nefarious gang. Newt Scamander also has a brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), who is a handy action sidekick.
Confused? After two and a half hours of all this, I was none the wiser. Written by JK Rowling and Harry Potter veteran Steve Kloves, Secrets of Dumbledore manages to thoroughly lose himself in Rowling’s wizarding world. I know he’s supposed to be shy and introverted, but Redmayne’s Scamander is such a drop that he hardly becomes a protagonist. Neither does Jude Law’s slightly smug Dumbledore.
In fact, it’s hard to care for someone, that’s how frenetic the storytelling is. Frenetic and yet somehow boring. In the first movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemA deft balance of action, magic and storytelling was struck, with the budding romance between muggle Kowalski and Queenie the witch providing an important injection of warmth and humor.
They’re kept separate here, and as the goodies made their way through pre-war Europe, I almost found myself cheering for Grindelwald, a mumbo-jumbo Hitler maybe, but the only really focused person in this whole film.
His problem lies in his script, but with Rowling among the producers, what brave soldier would volunteer to suggest that their script needed a little trimming?
Trim and clear, but it doesn’t get either, viz Secrets of Dumbledore looks very nice, it’s a drudgery to watch.
Rating: two stars
The Outfit (15A, 105 mins)
Mark Rylance has a stillness that’s mesmerizing at times: he’s the heart and soul of Graham Moore’s noir thriller and the sole reason it works.
He is Leonard Burling, a tailor from London who moved to Chicago in the 1950s where he runs a small shop. “I’m not a tailor, I’m a tailor,” he patiently explains to his customers, most of whom are members of the local Irish mafia. Her boss, Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), has coerced Leonard into allowing his gang to use his store to stash their dirty money.
An incriminating tape produced by the FBI in collusion with an informant has come to light. Roy wants it. Meanwhile, a gang war has broken out. This war spreads in Leonard’s business when Roy’s son Richie (Dylan O’Brien) is brought in with a gunshot wound by fellow mobster Francis (Johnny Flynn) and during one eventful night Leonard and his secretary Mable Shaun (Zoey Deutch) become involved Chaos.
Moore’s film is so geographically static it feels like a play, and the plot twists beliefs, but somehow Rylance, the master craftsman, manages to piece it all together.
Rating: three stars
Murina (no certificate, IFI, 96 minutes)
Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, winner of the Caméra d’Or in Cannes last year, her outstanding feature debut is a coming-of-age story without sentimentality, full of bite. Julija (Gracija Filipovic) is a pretty, smart teenager who spends most of her time swimming and diving in the crystal clear waters next to her Dalmatian home.
But she’s fed up with her overbearing father, Ante (Leon Lucev), and blames her mother, Nela (Danica Curcic), for not leaving him.
When his old friend Javier (Cliff Curtis) comes to visit, Ante bullies his wife and daughter into laying out the red carpet: Javier is wealthy and Ante hopes he will buy his property on the coast and develop it into a vacation spot.
But Javier seems more interested in Nela, an old flame, and isn’t immune to Julija’s charms either. She is aware of this and hopes that the polite but smart older man could be her salvation.
The subsequent psychodrama takes place against the steel-blue backdrop of the Adriatic Sea, and newcomer Filipovic shines as Julija, a sea nymph with an iron will.
Rating: Five stars
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/fantastic-beasts-the-secrets-of-dumbledore-review-mads-mikkelsen-adds-some-magic-but-harry-potter-prequel-is-confusing-and-dull-41529946.html Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore review – Mads Mikkelsen adds some magic, but the Harry Potter prequel is confusing and boring