4 Brief Reviews – Accountant, Fantastic Beasts, Arrival and Kubo

So I’ve seen 4 movies since my exams ended, and instead of reviewing all of them, here are my brief thoughts on each of them:

1. The Accountant – Gavin O’Connor

It was fine. Not great, not terrible. The story follows a genius accountant who suffers from autism. He uncooks the books for corrupt organizations, and is also a badass action hero. (Some have made the connection that The Accountant is Good Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne. It kind of is, but it isn’t nearly as good as either.)

Now, when I heard that premise, I was interested to see how these 2 disparate story types would blend. They never really did. Till the very end, it felt like I was watching 2 different films.

The best thing about the film are the performances. Ben Affleck (the accountant and badass) is amazing at showing us the awkwardness that comes with his condition, particularly in scenes with Anna Kendrick (another accountant) and Jon Bernthal (another badass). Jon Bernthal, by the way, steals the show. The scenes with him might be worth the price of admission all by themselves. J K Simmons (I’ve forgotten who his character was) gives a good performance, which is completely wasted by the film, because it’s limited to one subplot that is completely disconnected to everything else.

That subplot almost ruins the entire film. One thing this film had going for it were its thrilling action sequences, and this section of the film doesn’t have any. One thing the film definitely didn’t have going for it was the exposition, where information was basically conveyed only be telling, not showing, and this subplot had a lot of exposition. It could have simply been pulled out of the film without affecting much else, and we would be left with a much better film.

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates

Some of my least favorite Harry Potter films were ones directed by Yates. And while I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts a lot more than Order of the Phoenix (Yates), it was nowhere near as good as Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron).

And that’s kind of how I feel about this film. It was good, I enjoyed it, but I was looking for more than just ‘good’.

Here’s the rundown: magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) comes to New York with a box full of fantastic beasts, which escape. The rest of the film is about how to find them.

The film does a lot of stuff. There’s a main team of 4 characters dealing with the primary mission, there’s the American minister for magic, there’s Colin Farrell as a mysterious auror (the best performance in the film). there’s a politician and his sons, there’s a church of anti-witchcraft bigots, and there are the beasts. In the background, there are rumblings of Grindelwald’s rise to power, and the theme central to his ideology, that of how the wizarding community should deal with muggle (I don’t like saying nomadge) bigotry, is central to the film, along with the theme of animal treatment.

In doing all this, nothing gets the time or depth it deserves, and everything is only mildly enjoyable (there is one character with some depth, but revealing their identity would be a spoiler). I suppose Rowling introduced this many elements because she’s used to having an entire novel to flesh them out. But compared to the other major magical film this year, Doctor Strange, which had 6 characters and one central theme, this pales.

But I’m excited for the rest of the series. There’s easily enough here to support 5 films, and I suspect Grindelwald could end up as a better villain than Voldemort.

Also, the scenes with the bowtruckle were really sweet.

3. Arrival – Denis Villenueve

Please, please watch this film. It’s in theaters now, and you’ll absolutely want to discuss it once you’ve seen it, like I do. If my word isn’t enough, it’s in IMDb’s top 100 right now.

Aliens (heptapods) come to Earth in weird spaceships. Humans try to communicate, to figure out whether they come in peace, but the languages are fundamentally different, so they recruit the world’s leading linguist Louise (Amy Adams) to learn their language while teaching them ours, along with a scientist (Jeremy Renner), because of course you need a scientist.

This film is beautiful, but what’s more important is that it’s science fiction. Like, proper sci-fi, the kind you only get around once every year. The kind that takes one central idea and ratchets up the tension, leading up to a final reveal, and leaving you thinking about its core philosophy.

That final reveal, if you really think about it, and I highly recommend you do, will blow you mind and break your heart a few different ways at once. It is so astonishing that if someone were to tell you that X information was given initially and Y was what we found out through the reveal, you wouldn’t believe a film could give us X while concealing Y for so long.

That said, I can’t love it as much as something like Her or Interstellar, and that is because of the core philosophy I mentioned. It is a sci-fi concept I have seen before, and didn’t like it then either, as it weakens certain elements of the rest of the story. A lot of people love that idea, however, and you might too. Most importantly, the idea will stay with you, and you’ll want to talk about it.

4. Kubo and the Two Strings – Travis Knight

This is my favorite animated film of the year. I haven’t seen Moana yet, or The Red Turtle, but I can still say this with confidence, because it just doesn’t get as good as this.

It’s animated in stop motion, and is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. The epic fantasy adventure is a story about origami, a story about music, and a story about stories.

Hanzo was a samurai warrior who set out on a quest to obtain 3 powerful magical items, and is opposed by a nefarious villain and falls in love with a beautiful woman.

Kubo and the Two Strings starts after that.

Kubo (Art Parkinson) is the son of Hanzo, and sets on a quest for the same 3 items along with a monkey called Monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle-man called Beetle (Matthew McConnaughey). The Moon King (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughters (Rooney Mara) oppose him on his quest.

This quest is different. It’s more aware of the storytelling tropes it’s going through, and thus focuses less on the action and more on the drama, which there is a lot of. Monkey and Beetle aren’t goofy kid-friendly characters, but complex, funny and crucial parts of the story. Theron and McConnaughey are perfect for their roles.

Art Parkinson is great as Kubo. Kubo is a storyteller, and gets to say badass lines like “If you must blink, do it now”, and Parkinson has the kind of power in his voice that’s required for this. Kubo tells stories through origami figures that he manipulates through his guitar-ish musical instrument, which looks just as awesome as it sounds.

It’s not flawless, as there were moments where the film held back on visual awesomeness, cutting away from scenes before they’d had their full impact. But it’s an amazing movie that I highly recommend you watch.

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