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‘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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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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Forrest reviews ‘Doctor Strange’

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Five Great Journalism Movies You Should See Today

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‘Point Break’ review

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‘Batman v Superman’ – Review from ‘Forrest on Film’

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‘Batman v Superman’ – Snapshot Review

Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

151 minutes, Rated PG-13

Critical rating: 3 stars out of 4

Directed by: Zack Snyder (“300,” “Watchmen,” “Man of Steel”)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg and Gal Gadot

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality

The story: The movie is set after 2013’s “Man of Steel” in a world that has come to love Superman’s (Henry Cavill) heroic deeds but fear his immense power. One of the people most concerned about Superman’s extraordinary abilities is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), the billionaire businessman who moonlights as Batman. Wayne watched as Superman battled the Kryptonian super villain Zod, laying waste to much of Metropolis in the process. Although Superman didn’t intend on the destruction, Wayne takes it personally because many of his employees were killed when a building was destroyed.  At the same time, Superman is growing increasingly concerned about Batman’s vigilante tactics. This, and some meddling by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), leads to a showdown between the two heroes.

The scoop: The film boasts plenty of silly moments, but it’s also a lot of fun. Director Zack Snyder’s visuals are beautiful, and he allows time for the cast to develop their characters. Cavill and Affleck are good, as is Gal Gadot who makes an appearance as Wonder Woman. Although some plot points strain credibility, viewers willing to go for the ride can have plenty of fun.

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‘Race’ review on KGAB-AM

This morning, Gary Freeman and I talked about the film “Race” on KGAB-AM in Cheyenne, WY. The whole dialogue is now available on SoundCloud.

 

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