Review of the week
Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (3D)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Alison Sudol
Director: David Yates
Classification: 10-12 PG V
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
The ‘Harry Potter’ movies generated a charm that was difficult to resist. It crossed generational lines and transported viewers to an alternate universe where the mundane peacefully co-existed with the world of magic.
After the end of the series, Harry Potter creator J.K.Rowland conceived ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and it is different, because it treads a more traditional fantasy path.
Director David Yates, who directed the final four ‘Harry Potter’ instalments, brings a strong sense of continuity to this production. However, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ isn’t as whimsical or wondrous as those productions, except when characters venture into a tiny suitcase of visiting a British wizard in New York, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). His battered brown leather suitcase reminds one of Mary Poppins’ bag of endless tricks and the telephone box contraption (Tandis) used by the doctor in the ‘Dr Who’ British TV series.
What is a fascinating aspect is that Scamander’s bag is far bigger on the inside than it is on the outside and is a portal to a fantastical world of bizarre creatures.
It is not important that you haven’t read a ‘Harry Potter’ book, or seen the movie; one need not be familiar with these works to enjoy this entertaining production
For Harry Potter fans, there are sufficient hooks, links, and call-backs to reassure them that we’re still in the same universe, although the continent and era have changed. Instead of this story transpiring in the United Kingdom circa 2000, it’s in the mid-1920s New York City.
The movie focuses on Scamander’s American odyssey in which he is tracking down creatures that have escaped his portal (through an accident) and are now terrorising the Americans.
Along the way, he enlists the help of a “No-Mag” (a.k.a. “Muggle”) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who owns a case almost identical to Scamander’s and who wants to own his own bakery.
The foreign wizard’s activities are carefully observed by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an agent for the Magical Congress of the United States of America.
She decides to bring Scamander in for the unlawful importation of magical creatures. Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the Director of Magical Security, takes an interest in this case because his arrival coincides at a time when the carefully concealed existence of wizardry in the country is being severely threatened with national exposure.
The scenes in which our timid British wizard and company track down the beasts are among the film’s most striking. The magical menagerie includes a giant creature (a kind of overblown rhino) in heat looking for a mate; a possum-like animal with an appetite for gold and gems; a winged snake that “expands to fill all the space”; and an invisible entity that proves frustratingly elusive.
The “bigger picture” is the struggle between the forces of good, led by Scamander, and the forces of evil, fronted by the Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) whom we briefly encounter. He doesn’t garner much screen time here.
Eddie Redmayne, who never featured in any of the ‘Harry Potter’ films, is excellent. He gives a borderline-autistic portrayal which grows on you, while the chubby Dan Fogler is the perfect foil. Farrell provides a nasty element to the proceedings, radiating immense distrust.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is decidedly generic. Unless Rowling moves the story in an unexpected direction, it may not survive a franchise. It will be interesting to see, though, whether non-Rowling fans are attracted to this wondrous CGI experience – and in 3D, nogal.
Other Releases (synopsis)
FILM: MAGGIE’S PLAN
CAST: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel and Wallace Shawn
DIRECTOR: Rebecca Miller
In Rebecca Miller’s modern romantic comedy ‘Maggie’s Plan’, Greta Gerwig portrays Maggie Hardin, a vibrant and practical thirty-something New Yorker working in education, who without success in finding love, decides now is the time to have a child on her own. But when she meets John Harding (Ethan Hawke), an anthropology professor and struggling novelist, Maggie falls in love for the first time, and adjusts her plans for motherhood. Complicating matters, John is in an unhappy marriage with Georgette Harding (Julianne Moore), an ambitious academic who is driven by her work.
With some help from Maggie’s eccentric and hilarious best friends, married couple Tony (Bill Hader) and Felicia (Maya Rudolph), Maggie sets in motion a new plan that intertwines their lives and connects them in surprising and humorous ways. Maggie learns that sometimes destiny should be left to its own devices.
FILM: DIE SNEEUKONINGIN 2
CAST: Francois Stemmet, André Stolz, Rina Nienaber, Pierre Breytenbach, Leah, Cobus Visser
DIRECTOR: Alexey Tsitsilin
The trolls have developed a taste for freedom. Having played a major role in their triumph, Orm has become a hero to them all. This is not enough for him, however. Comically exaggerating his exploits and achievements, he spins a web of lies, claiming that he, personally, defeated the Snow Queen, and that he is destined to marry the princess, inherit great power and riches. Where will Orm’s tall tales lead him?