Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 

I am a huge Harry Potter Fan and so there was never any question that I would see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie although not as much as the actual Harry Potter films. This story takes place about 100 years before Harry and is set in NYC. Eddie Redmayne plays Englishman Newt Scamander, a curious soul who houses a lot of very bizarre magical creatures packed in a small suitcase he carries with him. Mr. Scamander is the author of one of Harry’s textbooks which is to no one’s surprise about magical beasts.  Newt travels to NYC in hopes of obtaining a new creature but his existing ones escape in a series of incidents and he spends most of the movie trying to round them up.

David Yates is the Director and he did several of the Potter films. Once again he proves a worthy steward of Rowling’s imagination and delivers very good special effects, terrific sets and rich cinematography. Eddie Redmayne as the shy tousled hair Newt is charming but his potential love interest, Katherine Waterston doesn’t seem to have any chemistry with him. Dan Fogler does a nice job as the muggle Newt picks up along the way. Colin Farrell is excellent as the evil Graves and Johnny Depp puts in a cameo at the end of the movie. Apparently he has a much more significant role in the next one.

You don’t have to have seen the other Harry Potter films to understand and enjoy what is going on in Magical Beasts but it does help. The villain is the evil wizard Grindelwald whose backstory was detailed in the “Deathly Hallows” and it helps to know something about him including his “sign” of the Deathly Hallows. The movie sheds light on the American Wizard legal and educational structure along with it’s governing body, which will be new to Potter audiences filling in gaps about the Wizarding world beyond British soil. The depths of Rowling’s intricate backstories never ceases to amaze me.

For adults who are into Harry Potter, I’d see the movie. For those adults who aren’t going to see the movie with children, I’d suggest you see the original Harry Potter films, which other than the Deathly Hollows Part 1 and the Chamber of Secrets are better than this film. This movie is perfectly enjoyable but in my opinion, it lacks the magic of the originals. This may in part be because while Jo Rowling is a brilliant writer, this, her first attempt at screen writing, is not as strong. I’m a bit worried about how we are going to get four more movies out of this series but if Jo has five movies about Newt in her head, I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

 

 

 

Movies: Memorial Day Movie Viewing -a Couple of Films at the Opposite Ends of the Spectrum

 

The Lobster

I’m not going to lie; this is a very weird movie. It won the Jury prize at Cannes in 2015 as well as numerous other awards so it is not without critical acclaim. This movie is not for everyone but there are things to like in this social satire of a futuristic world with bizarre rules. Colin Farrell plays David, a rather boring architect whose wife leaves him. He is moved to a hotel where he has 45 days to find someone who has a like characteristic  (his is near-sightedness) to couple up with. If he doesn’t, he is transformed into an animal of his choice, which, in his case, is a Lobster. Dave brings his brother Bob along with him who was transformed into a border collie after failing to find a mate.

Things don’t go well for David and as he approaches the 45th day, he escapes to the woods and joins up with a group of “Loners” who have also escaped the “couples” rules that define their world. As part of their rebellion, the Loners are not allowed to have any romantic relationships with each other. In addition, the guests at the Hotel are sent out each week to shoot them with tranquilizer guns in return for extra days. If they are shot, they are brought back to the Hotel to be transformed.  In a predictable plot line,  David finds his true love played by Rachel Weiss and tragedy follows (although there has certainly been some up to this point as David tried to find a mate in the hotel).

I thought the acting was great in this slightly too long movie that is bound to polarize audiences. Both Farrell and Weiss gave wonderful and nuanced performances and Olivia Coleman is suburb as the hotel manager. There are two halves to this movie – the first half being more light and comedic and the 2nd half being much darker and disturbing and it is that part of the movie that will likely cause many viewers to have difficulty with the film.

The Lobster is unlike any movie you will probably see and it is a very absorbing movie for much of the two hours. The dystopian world in which it takes place is a parody on the modern world of dating and mating, which is played out expertly by the actors. The premise shouldn’t work at all but it does and it will be the weirdest Rom Com you will ever see.   If you watch this movie, be forewarned that animals do not do well in this environment and it is hard to believe that none were injured in the filming.

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel movies aren’t for everyone but this one is pretty good if you are so inclined to watch a film in that genre. If you are, you’ll find that this “Civil War” between super heroes was much better than the recent Batman v. Superman. The premise is that some of the Avengers are willing to be managed by a UN panel due to the collateral damage that they have been creating while defending the world. This group, led by Iron Man,includes Black Widow, Spiderman and War Machine. Captain America doesn’t agree with this oversight and he has Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and Falcon. There are more on each side.

The villain is a guy out for revenge for something – I didn’t think this was the strongest part of the movie at all – and lots of fighting ensues. The movie is light (probably because they aren’t really saving the world from any big menace) with many comedic moments and it is a pleasure to sit back and watch Robert Downy Jr. and the others banter back and forth. The over arching storyline  even bears some relationship to an on-going political debate in real life – the issue of collateral damage and how much are we willing to accept in innocent civilian death to kill the bad guys.

The acting was fine, particularly by the women (Scarlett Johannson and Elizabeth Olsen) and Tom Holland, the young man who is now going to carry the Spiderman series on his shoulders. You may remember him from “The Impossible” where he played Naomi Watt’s son. So if you like the Avenger movies, you’ll certainly enjoy this one, which is clocking in at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. If this is not your thing, there is no compelling reason to go see it.