[Harry Potter Day] Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Director: David Yates

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman, Colin Farrell

Screenplay: J.K. Rowling

133 mins. Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Costume Design
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Production Design

 

Today, to honor the 19th Anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts, we look back at the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film that exists in the Wizarding World Cinematic Universe (yep, that happened) but takes place decades before Harry Potter was even born.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything, Jupiter Ascending) has arrived in 1926 New York with a mysterious case full of amazing and exotic creatures, but when a tiny mix-up with aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, TV’s Secrets and Lies, Kung Fu Panda) causes several of his fantastic beasts to be released upon the No-Maj (America’s term for Muggles) society. Now, it is up to Newt, Kowalski, and ex-auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) to retrieve the missing creatures before they are discovered by the non-magical citizens of New York City.

There are many things to love about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I have to start with the performances. Eddie Redmayne absolutely disappears within his role as Newt and becomes the magi-zoologist with apparent ease, and his foil in Kowalski is expertly lovable and comedic due to Fogler’s performance. I was also blown away by Ezra Miller’s (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Suicide Squad) work as Credence Barebone, the adopted son of a religious zealot being manipulated by the sinister Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Solace). There’s also some nice supporting work from Samantha Morton (TV’s Harlots, John Carter), Jon Voight (TV’s Ray Donovan, Mission: Impossible), and Ron Perlman (TV’s Hand of God, Hellboy).

The collaboration between screenwriter J.K. Rowling and director David Yates (The Legend of Tarzan, The Girl in the Café), who has now directed five films in this franchise, is electric to say the least. Yates has an understanding of how to treat the fans, and Rowling’s decision to use creatures hinted at in the books and previous films to further enhance the experience is something to dazzle at. For me, getting to see an actual Bowtruckle and Nifler, two creatures mentioned in novels but never put to film, was very exciting.

I also would like to point out the excellent score in the film, courtesy of James Newton Howard. Howard is one of my favorite working film composers, and his work here is some of his best. When you compare the score of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to, say, something like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it is clear to see where one score outdid the other. Howard’s music entices us with callbacks to the original music, and when it does, it’s pitch perfect, but at the same time, he creates a plethora of new music to further guide this franchise into the future.

As for issues, I felt like the New Salem Philanthropic Society felt a little rushed in their exposition. I would like to know more about them but they don’t get the full exposition needed to really consider them a threat. The same thing with Jon Voight’s character, Henry Shaw, and the secondary plot thread with him doesn’t really go anywhere. Finally, as for the twist (if you can call it that), it’s a little easy to spot, and I feel like there was a better way to do what was done at the end of the film. Thankfully, these problems only affect secondary characters and our main characters are more or less unaffected by them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an exquisite and sophisticated return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thanks to some clever callbacks to creatures and major plot points of the franchise like the Deathly Hallows, the film feels new but also honors what came before. It’s a clever film that will have something for everyone, as long as they are a Harry Potter fan. I don’t think this new entry will win over any new fans, but anyone who has taken the ride this long shouldn’t have any trouble going around again.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, click here.

AlmightyGoatman’s 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016!

 

Note* This list is not the countdown so these are not numbered. This list contains films that have a release date for 2016 and will not contain the 10 films I believe will be the best. This is the films I have become aware of that I am looking forward to. No, your indie film didn’t make the cut because I just haven’t heard much if anything about it. I’m sorry, but you have a whole year to change my mind.

 

Honorable Mentions: Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, The Free State of Jones, Connor4real, The BFG

 

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Hail, Caesar!

I love the Coen Brothers. I don’t always love their movies, but I love that these two great artists can conjure up so much grandeur while at the same time creating so many personal stories. Hail, Caesar! is an exciting farcical comedy about a kidnapped actor back in the heyday of show business and the studio man tasked with finding him. There is a lot of madcap, a lot of fun in the trailer alone, and a lot of Coen.

 

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

I’m not even all that convinced that this movie will be good. The trailer didn’t entirely convince me and I wasn’t a big fan of Man of Steel by any means. I’m mostly excited to see this film because it appears to be the must-see popcorn flick of 2016, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. The only problem: I was convinced by the great marketing campaign for Star Wars. Batman v Superman, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a big supporter of Zack Snyder (loved Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, even liked 300) but lately, he just hasn’t been hitting the mark.

 

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Snowden

I actually know very little about this project except the touchy subject matter and Oliver Stone, who has become the king of the biopic. With so many great ones under his belt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead, Snowden looks to be an interesting property for this year.

 

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The Nice Guys

When I say Shane Black, you say what? Exactly, he isn’t a household name yet, but I feel in love with his style based on Lethal Weapon alone. He’s been hitting it out of the park lately with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang several years back and then 2013’s Iron Man 3, and now, a 1970s highly stylized buddy cop picture with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Yes, please.

 

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The Conjuring 2

I tried to pick the most interesting horror film of the mulch this upcoming season, and The Conjuring 2 is it. Never mind Annabelle (truth be told, haven’t seen it yet), The Conjuring is an excellent horror film that learned from all the great work and all the mistakes of director James Wan’s career, and coming off of Furious 7 (a difficult production giving us one of the best in the series) and you have me excited.

 

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Suicide Squad

Even if Batman v Superman is a dud or a hit, 2016’s real pressure of the DCEU is Suicide Squad, the third film in the Expanded Universe features some of its best villains, and they aren’t even the villains of the film. Confusing, I know, but at this point in the MCU, we were getting Iron Man 2, and we hadn’t even dipped a toe in the pool yet. The real test of the DCEU is Suicide Squad, so baby, dip that toe!

 

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A Monster Calls

An interesting property with Liam Neeson playing a monster. Yeah, a monster, and Juan Antonio Bayona (recently off of World War Z 2, dodged a bullet there) at the helm, A Monster Calls seems on par with a Boy and his Dog vibe and the magic of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Check out the teaser if you get the chance; it slipped right in under the radar last year.

 

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Doctor Strange

The reason I didn’t include Captain America: Civil War on the list this year was because of Doctor Strange, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as our new Marvel hero, Mads Mikkelson as the villain, and horror director Scott Derrickson at the helm. This has the potential to be what Fantastic Four, or Fant4stic, or whatever it was last year, tried to be.

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

These last two are no-brainers. Of course I am excited to see where JK Rowling and director David Yates take us in the ninth installment of what is becoming the Harry Potter expanded universe. Everyone’s doing it! I like the idea that you can play with a new tale in a world already established with rules made to be bent. Add in Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne, fresh off The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl (which will likely garner him another nomination tomorrow morning), and you have made a delicious nerd soufflé, and I can’t wait to try it.

 

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

See Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for my reasoning behind this film. Let’s face it, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great, and this will be the first opportunity for Disney to actually experiment with the formula without killing our hopes and dreams. And what a story to tell, featuring a tale between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope about the plot to steal the Death Star plans. Expect to see some hints dropped at Star Wars: Rebels and The Force Awakens, perhaps even a cameo or two. Sounds like an exciting December.

 

Hell, sounds like an exciting 2016!

So what do you think? These are just my choices. What are yours? Leave me your own 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2016 below in the comments and I look forward to talking this year with you for at least 12 months…

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

@AlmightyGoatman

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Screenplay: Peter Craig, Danny Strong

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

 

Of all the young adult post-apocalyptic stories currently drowning our theaters, The Hunger Games is definitely at the top of my list. The list is of good quality work, and the list is small. At just over two hours, the newest film in the franchise, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, takes the series in a new direction while setting up the final climactic piece to this series, but does it work?

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Yes and no.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: Days of Future Past) has escaped from the Third Quarter Quell Hunger Games intact, and now she finds herself in the midst of a major rebellion against the Capitol and the insidious President Snow (Donald Sutherland, The Italian Job, Horrible Bosses). Her on-again-off-again real-but-also-kind-of-fake boyfriend Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson, Bridge to Terabithia, Epic) has been captured and might be dead. She is joined in her quest to take down Snow by friends Gale (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2, Empire State) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson, TV’s True Detective, No Country for Old Men) as well as the rebellion leader President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore, Magnolia, Non-Stop) and her second-in-command Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote, Doubt). Does Katniss have what it takes to be the face of a rebellion, and can she save the ones she loves from the dark and powerful Capitol?

First of all, I must say that I was in agreement about making Mockingjay into two films. Having read the book, I found that there was a lot of material to be mined from it and I couldn’t see a logical place to cut it without it feeling rushed. That being said, I felt that the area they could’ve beefed up and gone into more were not. We are thrown into the film without have a few minutes to start connecting the dots. I spoke to some views who hadn’t read the books to question their thoughts and they felt as though a little more prologue or something to bring the story into its frame of reference would’ve been appreciated. We also could have spent more time with some of our new characters and there are a lot of them, virtually all of them in this film. We could’ve developed Liam Hemsworth’s Gale as more than just a good-looking fella. There is some action for Hemsworth in this picture but it doesn’t feel as exciting because frankly we don’t know his character like we should.

Now, this movie isn’t bad, don’t think that’s where I’m going with this, but it could’ve had better pacing and more to it. We get some great work from J-Law here as Katniss, and some awesome work our second tier players Moore, Hoffman (in the last performance before he was taken from us), and Harrelson.

Director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) handles the material well, but I don’t think he added as much from a stylistic perspective as he could have. Think about the latter Harry Potter films, the ones directed by David Yates. Each Yates film in the series, although directed by the same man, has a different feeling and a wholly unique style. I could see a moment from Yates’ film and know which film it is. I don’t feel like F-Law has learned anything from last year’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which he should have. Again, not really a flaw, just a notice.

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The problem with most of these films is that they are intended to be viewed as a whole, so when The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is released next year, I will take a look back at this first installment (or third, technically) and see how it holds up as a complete saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 is a strong and powerful entry in The Hunger Games saga. There are some truly great moments in this film, and we get a wide array of awesome performances and a lot of tension building for next year’s finale. It is, however, a step down from Catching Fire.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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