‘Artemis Fowl’ a Streaming Mess

AT A GLANCE

Artemis Fowl

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonzo Anozie, Colin Farrell and Judi Dench

Rated: PG

Critical rating: 1½ stars out of 4

Photo Courtesy of Disney
Ferdia Shaw plays the title character in "Artemis Fowl," available now on Disney Plus.
Photo courtesy of Disney

Ferdia Shaw stars in “Artemis Fowl,” available now on Disney Plus.

By Forrest Hartman

It’s fair to say Kenneth Branagh is capable of greatness. We know this thanks to memorable acting turns in films ranging from “Dunkirk” to “Othello” (1995) and because of his equally thrilling work behind the camera. 

Branagh is the rare screen star who has shown as much talent and breadth as a director as he has when chewing scenery. Although much of his directorial work is centered on Shakespeare adaptations – think “Henry V” and “Much Ado About Nothing” – he has proven himself equally capable in the superhero (“Thor”) and mystery “Murder on the Orient Express” (2017) genres. 

Branagh is also adept at entertaining the family crowd, as one of his most-charming directorial works is Disney’s 2015 live-action reimagining of “Cinderella.” That fact made his attachment to the “Artemis Fowl” screen adaptation promising. Originally, intended as a May theatrical release, the movie was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and shifted to a June 12 debut on the Disney Plus streaming service. Since most of Disney’s high-profile 2020 pictures have been delayed rather than shifted to this platform, one imagines executives knew what they had when Branagh turned it in. It’s not good. 

Although we know Branagh is capable of greatness due to his lengthy body of work, almost everything we know about the title character in “Artemis Fowl” is due to voiceover narration or poorly developed plot contrivances that leave too much to the imagination. In fact, “Artemis Fowl” is so poorly developed – both in terms of characterization and world building – that it’s hard to imagine how Branagh would let this pass.  

The same can be said of the admirable cast. Ferdia Shaw, who plays young Artemis, is joined by Colin Farrell (Artemis Fowl Senior), Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Lara McDonnell and Tamara Smart. There is enough ability in this group for one to expect a serviceable film. Instead, we get a hodgepodge that – although nifty to look at – alternates between confusing, dull and outright frustrating. The latter is true because there is good material to work with.  

The movie is based on the well-received young adult novels by author Eoin Colfer, and the focus is on the title character, a 12-year-old so bright that he has no patience for school. The intolerance stems from the fact that Artemis knows more than virtually everyone, including his teachers and the psychologist who ineffectually attempts to knock him down a peg. Viewers learn these background points through terse narration and a handful of hasty scenes that do nothing to build empathy with Artemis. That’s problematic because one has to care about him to invest in the adventure that follows.

Although young Artemis hates school, he dotes on his father (Artemis Senior), a single parent who thrills his son with fanciful stories about fairies, goblins and other mystical creatures. These seem like fantasy tales until Artemis Senior goes missing, and young Artemis discovers that his father has actually been feeding him the secrets of a hidden world. What’s more, Artemis must tap into that world to save his dad.  

The movie’s visuals are admirable. In fact, they are quite good for a picture included as part of the base, original content of a streaming service. These are special effects one would expect from a big screen feature … because that’s what was initially intended. It’s not easy to make fantasy material look believable, but Branagh and his crew succeed on that front. 

Viewers are legitimately transported to a land where fairies and goblins are real, and it’s all very dazzling and Harry Potter-like. “Artemis Fowl” would seem, then, to be a perfect film for fans of that series. Alas, the Potter features are painstakingly mapped out so viewers understand the rules of the magical world they enter. This is not so with “Fowl,” which teases viewers without elaborating. That leads to a long string of questions that are never adequately answered. 

Equally annoying is the lack of time given each key character. Artemis Junior is an outline at best. His father gets too little screen time to serve as anything other than a treasure for Artemis to chase, and Holly Short (a fairy who is key to the action) makes life-altering decisions with whimsical ease. Even the narrator, a “giant” dwarf named Mulch Diggums, is little more than a sketch. One might chalk this up to too many cuts if the film was longer, but at 93 minutes, “Artemis Fowl” could have added plentiful background without overstaying its welcome.  

Every writing coach tells students to “show” readers what’s happening rather than “tell” them. The same advice is crucial with film, but “Artemis Fowl” is invested only in telling. Viewers never see the souls of the characters and – because of this – they’re never allowed to feel much of anything.  A movie without feeling is a movie that fails.

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‘Escape Room’: Snapshot Review

ESCAPE ROOM                                              

2½ STARS OUT OF 4               1 hours 39 minutes

PLOT:A group of strangers meet for an escape room adventure, only to find that the stakes are life and death.

SCOOP:Like most modern horror films, the plotting is silly and predictable. Characters are slowly picked off, and their psyches unravel as they come to grips with the situation. Director Adam Robitel does a nice job with the pacing, making the movie a pleasant – if entirely derivative – distraction. This isn’t an inventive picture, nor is it one that you need to see, but there are certainly worse ways to pass a Friday night.

STARRING:

Taylor Russell – Zoey Davis

Logan Miller – Ben Miller

Jay Ellis – Jason Walker

Tyler Labine – Mike Nolan

Deborah Ann Woll – Amanda Harper

Nik Dodani – Danny Khan

DIRECTOR: Adam Robitel (“Insidious: The Last Key”)

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‘Glass’: Snapshot Review

3  STARS OUT OF 4                 2 hours 9 minutes

PLOT:“Unbreakable” hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has adapted to life as a vigilante superhero, but he faces his greatest challenge in the form of a killer with multiple personalities (James McAvoy). Ultimately, hero and villain come face to face with another key character from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero universe: Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson).

SCOOP:For fans of “Unbreakable” and “Split” – the predecessors to this movie – “Glass” is a must-see. Although not as well-crafted as either of the earlier pictures, it completes the arc of the main characters. “Glass” also has a decent Shyamalan twist and offers a fascinating take on superhero lore. Just as those who loved the first two films will want to see “Glass,” those who didn’t like them can safely stay away.

STARRING:

Bruce Willis – David Dunn

James McAvoy – Multiple Personalities

Samuel L. Jackson – Elijah Price/Mr. Glass

Sarah Paulson – Ellie Staple

Anya Taylor-Joy – Casey Cooke

Spencer Treat Clark – Joseph Dunn

DIRECTOR:M. Knight Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” “After Earth”)

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Critics’ Choice Award Winners

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

The 24th annual Critics’ Choice Awards were doled out Sunday in Santa Monica. The awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Forrest is a voting member) and Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Following is a complete list of winners.

FILM AWARDS

BEST PICTURE

“Roma” (Netflix)

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale – “Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST ACTRESS – TIE

Glenn Close – “The Wife” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Lady Gaga – “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali – “Green Book” (Universal)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Regina King – “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna)

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS

Elsie Fisher – “Eighth Grade” (A24)

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE

“The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight)

BEST DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma” (Netflix)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Paul Schrader – “First Reformed” (A24)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Barry Jenkins – “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Annapurna)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Alfonso Cuarón – “Roma” (Netflix)

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart – “Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST EDITING

Tom Cross – “First Man” (Universal)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Ruth Carter – “Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP

“Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

“Black Panther” (Disney)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Sony)

BEST ACTION MOVIE

“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (Paramount)

BEST COMEDY

“Crazy Rich Asians” (Warner Bros.)

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY

Christian Bale – “Vice” (Annapurna)

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY

Olivia Colman – “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight)

BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR MOVIE

“A Quiet Place” (Paramount)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

“Roma” (Netflix)

BEST SONG

Shallow – “A Star Is Born” (Warner Bros.)

BEST SCORE

Justin Hurwitz – “First Man” (Universal)

 

TELEVISION AWARDS

BEST DRAMA SERIES

“The Americans” (FX Networks)

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Matthew Rhys – “The Americans” (FX Networks)

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Sandra Oh – “Killing Eve” (BBC America)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Noah Emmerich – “The Americans” (FX Networks)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Thandie Newton – “Westworld” (HBO)

BEST COMEDY SERIES

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Bill Hader – “Barry” (HBO)

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Rachel Brosnahan – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Henry Winkler – “Barry” (HBO)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Alex Borstein – “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)

BEST LIMITED SERIES

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX Networks)

BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION

“Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” (NBC)

BEST ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION

Darren Criss – “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (FX Networks)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION – TIE

Amy Adams – “Sharp Objects” (HBO)

Patricia Arquette – “Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION

Ben Whishaw – “A Very English Scandal” (Amazon)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION

Patricia Clarkson – “Sharp Objects” (HBO)

BEST ANIMATED SERIES

“BoJack Horseman” (Netflix)

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‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’: Snapshot Review

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS

2.5 stars (out of 4)               1 hour, 44 minutes

Rated PG for thematic elements including sorcery, some action, scary images, rude humor and language

PLOT: A young orphan boy moves in with his warlock uncle, and begins to learn about the world of magic. Soon, the boy and his newly adopted family, which also includes a friendly witch, find themselves going toe to toe with evil forces.

SCOOP: The film is based on the 1973 novel by John Bellairs, and viewers who enjoyed “Goosebumps” have a reasonably good chance of warming to this project. Jack Black is likable as freewheeling warlock Jonathan Barnavelt, and Cate Blanchett is solid as the friendly witch Florence Zimmerman. Owen Vaccaro has a nice starring turn as Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan coming to terms with the death of his parents and a magical world he never knew existed.

The art direction and special effects for the movie are appealing, and the scary sequences are mild, meaning most children older than five should be OK with the content. There aren’t a lot of live-action films targeted at this audience, and that’s a feather in the cap of director Eli Roth, who is better known for darker projects, including “Hostel,” “Cabin Fever” and “Death Wish” (2018). Alas, “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” isn’t as charming as similarly themed works (think “Harry Potter”), and it’s paced on the slow side. Bottom line: It is a reasonable escape for parents looking to treat their youngsters to Halloween fun, but it won’t be remembered as a classic.

STARRING: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Kyle MacLachlan, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Colleen Camp

DIRECTOR (co-writer): Eli Roth (“Hostel,” “Cabin Fever,” “Death Wish”)

 

 

 

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‘The Predator’: Snapshot Review

THE PREDATOR

(2 stars out of 4)                     1 hour, 47 minutes

PLOT: A sniper, his autistic son, a scientist and a ragtag group of ex-military friends face off against an angry, king-sized predator. The latter has come to Earth to hunt another of his species.

SCOOP: The film – the 4thor 6th in the franchise depending on if you count the “Alien Vs. Predator” flicks — has a retro vibe but doesn’t feel dated. It also has more humor than past entries, giving it some entertainment value. That said, the picture seriously overstays its welcome. Although only 107 minutes, it feels longer thanks to standard action-movie tropes and a plot that isn’t inventive or special. Director Shane Black (“The Nice Guys,” “Iron Man 3,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”) has a nice style, but he doesn’t overcome the fact that this movie is basically a standard-order guilty pleasure.

STARRING: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane

DIRECTOR: Shane Black (“The Nice Guys,” “Iron Man 3,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”)

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‘Fate of the Furious’: Review on Action News Now

Forrest talks “Fate of the Furious” with Cort KloppingForrest talks “Fate of the Furious” with Cort Klopping on Action News Now April 14.

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Snapshot Review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS 

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Photo courtesy of EPK.TV

Critical Rating: 2 stars (out of four)

Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content and language

Directed by: F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton,” “The Italian Job”)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Charlize Theron, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russel, Luke Evans

Story snapshot: Dominic “Dom” Torretto (Vin Diesel) finds himself working against his own team. Because Dom is such a fearsome opponent, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Tej (Tyrese Gibson) and the rest of the crew take on an unlikely partner, their one-time enemy Deckard (Jason Statham).

The scoop: Like all the “Fast & Furious” films, “Fate of the Furious” is big, dumb fun. Plot holes? Yeah, it’s got ’em. Great acting? Not so much. Of course, fans of this franchise don’t queue up for witty dialogue and philosophical ideas. Mostly, they want to see fast cars do impossible things. And … there’s plenty of that. Since it’s in the trailer, it’s no spoiler to note that one sequence features a tank, a nuclear submarine and a Lamborghini. “Fate of the Furious” is not a good movie, but it moves like lightning, and it’s hard not to smile at the goofiness. In other words, see it if you liked the first seven pictures. Avoid it at all costs if you didn’t.

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Critics’ Choice Award Winners: 2016

WINNERS OF THE 22ND ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE AWARDS

FILM:
BEST PICTURE – “La La Land”

BEST ACTOR – Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”

BEST ACTRESS – Natalie Portman, “Jackie”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Viola Davis, “Fences”

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS – Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE – “Moonlight”

BEST DIRECTOR – Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – TIE: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” and Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Eric Heisserer, “Arrival”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – Linus Sandgren, “La La Land”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, “La La Land”

BEST EDITING – Tom Cross, “La La Land”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Madeline Fontaine, “Jackie”

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP – “Jackie”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – “The Jungle Book”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – “Zootopia”

BEST ACTION MOVIE – “Hacksaw Ridge”

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE – Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE – Margot Robbie, “Suicide Squad”

BEST COMEDY – “Deadpool”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY – Ryan Reynolds, “Deadpool”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY – Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE – “Arrival”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – “Elle”

BEST SONG – “City of Stars” from “La La Land”

BEST SCORE – Justin Hurwitz, “La La Land”

 

TELEVISION:

BEST COMEDY SERIES – Silicon Valley, HBO

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live, NBC

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Donald Glover, Atlanta, FX

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES – Jane Krakowski, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Netflix

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES – Louie Anderson, Baskets, FX

BEST GUEST PERFORMER IN A COMEDY SERIES – Alec Baldwin, Saturday Night Live, NBC

BEST DRAMA SERIES – Game of Thrones, HBO

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld, HBO

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul, AMC

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES – Thandie Newton, Westworld, HBO

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES – John Lithgow, The Crown, Netflix

BEST GUEST PERFORMER IN A DRAMA SERIES – Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Walking Dead, AMC

BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION OR LIMITED SERIES – The People v. O.J. Simpson, FX

BEST ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION OR LIMITED SERIES – Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson, FX

BEST ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION OR LIMITED SERIES – Courtney B. Vance,The People 
v. O.J. Simpson, FX

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION OR LIMITED SERIES – Regina King, American Crime, ABC

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION OR LIMITED SERIES – Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson, FX

BEST REALITY COMPETITION SERIES – The Voice, NBC

BEST STRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Shark Tank, ABC

BEST UNSTRUCTURED REALITY SERIES – Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, CNN

BEST REALITY SHOW HOST – Anthony Bourdain, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, CNN

BEST TALK SHOW – The Late Late Show with James Corden, CBS

BEST ANIMATED SERIES – BoJack Horseman, Netflix

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Forrest reviews ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

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