[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

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

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Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth

Screenplay: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

127 mins. Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity.

 

I have been a fan of The Wachowskis (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) since the original Matrix film (it took three viewings for me to properly enjoy it, but it matters not). I loved the entire Matrix trilogy, and I count Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas as two of my all-time favorite films (even if the rest of the population would rather the two films not exist), but when I saw the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I was so excited to have the sibling directors release a new film that would draw the audience back in. For some reason, moviegoers just haven’t embraced these filmmakers since their breakthrough with The Matrix, and I was hoping for Jupiter Ascending to change that.

And then it was pushed back. Whether or not a film is good or bad, pushing it back, especially to the graveyard of the late winter months, is a death sentence. When it came out, fans gave it that death sentence. I was nervous to see the film as it has so much riding on it.

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Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, TV’s Family Guy, Black Swan) is an illegal alien working as a janitor with her widowed mother. She lives an unlikable life. That is, until she is swept off her feet by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street, The Book of Life), a hybrid humanoid creature made by splicing human DNA with wolf DNA. Caine informs Jupiter that she is the inheritor of the Earth which is currently being held by the Abrasax family who each want the Earth for themselves and want Jupiter out of the picture. They seek out help from Stinger Apini (Sean Bean, TV’s Legends, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), another hybrid, who recognizes Jupiter’s importance, and the three set out to lay claim to the young woman’s planet.

Channing Tatum has really grown as a performer in the years since bursting onto the scene, and his physicality and charismatic approach to Caine really give us a unique character to connect. His chemistry with Mila Kunis’ Jupiter is pretty strong as well. Kunis is a great everywoman, even if I wasn’t quite convinced that she was a janitor.

On the other side of those performances, I wasn’t all that content with Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, Les Miserables) as the eldest Abrasax, Balem. His delivery came off in shouts and whispers but never in a cohesive way. I also absolutely hated Douglas Booth (Noah, Romeo & Juliet) phoning his performance in as the youngest Abrasax, Titus, a sensual and foolish child.

I felt the notion of water throughout this entire film. From the cinematography, where the shots all flow in such a cyclical way, like liquid through the inside of a pipe, to the action sequences, played out like the spinning of a top, everything was just gorgeously mapped out.

Michael Giacchino’s score is another win here, with elements from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz (two major influences on the film) in his score.

Now, the pacing is a bit off, some sequences rocketing from beginning to end, while others hitting a wall and staying there, but it could’ve been a lot worse.

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The Wachowski siblings are known from creating worlds, especially worlds that cause the audience to think and interpret, and many don’t like that. Nowadays, we as an audience ask for original content and then choose not to embrace it. Audiences and critics complained about a lot of the things in this film that don’t work (the bee scene with Kunis was rather strange, I’ll admit) that they forget about all the things that work so well here. The film is not perfect, and it doesn’t stand as the toppest of tiers for these filmmakers, which is sad, because Jupiter Ascending may serve as a death knell for these original artists, especially if their upcoming Netflix series Sense8 doesn’t work as well. I hope you see this film, I hope you embrace it, and I hope you like as much as I did, or more.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

The Theory of Everything (2014)

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Director: James Marsh

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones

Screenplay: Andrew McCarten

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Eddie Redmayne)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Felicity Jones)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

 

In The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables, Jupiter Ascending) portrays Stephen Hawking in the years chronicling his debilitating disease and the unstoppable will of the human mind as his relationship with eventual wife Jane (Felicity Jones, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, True Story) heads through its most difficult steps.

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Eddie Redmayne absolutely perfects the art of becoming a human being in his portrayal of Mr. Hawking. There are so many times when I watched this movie and forgot I was watching a movie. His performance is so layered with emotional resonance, even as his disease progresses, that it becomes difficult to discern when he is speaking his lines from when his eyes convey his communication.

Felicity Jones provides pretty great, though somewhat overshadowed, work as Jane Hawking, a woman tortured by promises and unbeatable devotion to her husband. These two have tremendous chemistry.

Director James Marsh begins his films with breathtaking visuals symbolizing Hawking’s great mind but it eventually fades away which is sad as I found it to be a wholly engaging bit of visual spectacle that threads the movie together in an almost mystical way.

The Oscar-nominated score is an engaging one, a numeric tone of simple patterns used well.

Did anyone else notice that the end credits are in reverse as homage to the underlying theme of time’s nonlinear presentation.

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The Theory of Everything misses the visual marks that could make it extraordinary. Thankfully, the film is built on the wonderful chemistry of definitive stars Redmayne and Jones. It isn’t the best picture of 2014, but it is a remarkable character study of one of the most interesting characters in history.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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